Tag: Challenges

Finding our Edge

…from my article published in SELF DEVELOPMENT Journal, Shri Bishwanath Memorial Education & Welfare Trust Foundation, Mumbai.

How many sides does a coin have?” I ask eight blind kids in their Creativity room. 7 of them are quiet. There is shyness, diffidence, anxiety in the room.

One little girl twists her ribbon to knots. Then there’s Varun (name changed), always in trouble for speaking his mind, for being local ‘Complaint box‘ and ‘Motor mouth’. Young Varun has faced both destitution and comfort: he’s been ‘corrected’ for being unruly and is a tamed little lion today. All of which maybe has made him unselfconscious. His mind is an undefensive scramble of questions. Varu may not be the highest scorer in academics but he’s the curious one.

Now he replies with excitement, “Three sides, no?” Heads, Tails, and the Edge. He rolls the coin across the table to me, of course he knows exactly where I’m sitting, his young face filling with light as if he’d just found the key to the universe.

What is possible when we step out of what we know, see, hear, feel?
….

If I were to blindfold myself, or shut my ears for an hour, would I be able to solve a few problems that have baffled me before? Chances are…. who knows? Yes!

I don’t know how, but our son Joh who was born blind, always finds missing things at home. He says he knows when we last used it, and where we kept it. Keys, wallet, glasses, a book, papers… it is uncanny. He remembers details we cannot easily remember. Is his memory sharper? Perhaps he’s just using all he’s got, and the sense of sight he lacks, propels him to search deeper at muddles and mysteries. He knows the time of day, knows if it’s going to rain…his olfactory senses are high toned, auditory nerves on edge, every hammer and anvil fine tuned.

What does it take for us to respond to a new question from an opposite state of mind? If I’m a logical person, I respond from one side of me. But what if, when I’m startled, shaken, pushed out of comfort zone, I now respond from the Creative side, or vice versa;

Antharagange hills, Kolar, outside Bangalore.

My own childhood began with being left handed. In the chaos at early school where one of my teachers did not understand me, I began writing in reverse, & speaking in reverse, (spoonerism would soon turn out to be a fun diversion in classroom and some moments of boredom).

I’m unsure how and when the transition to ‘fun with being an odd one out’ began but my parents were not conventional people. Some of the places we lived at were dangerous stations, there was travel by tiny boat, deep sea/ river crossings…and yet things seemed to turn into a joyful classroom for me. A kind of Jungle Book lens through which to enter what was given.

I met Fagoo Behera the boatman from Khujang, (names unchanged), he sang to ‘baba crocodiles’ in the Mahanadi River, Ma said. (Baba, for baby). Not to underplay how tense some days were, but when you have a Life you must live, and choose to respond not from underlying Fear/ Anxiety, who knows what you will find?

Sketch: Village dancers.
RN
.

Ma taught craft & music at Stations where Dad worked (Ministry of Lights&Shipping, Govt.of India). We lived in ports from Kanyakumari to Mandvi in Gujarat 200 kms from the India border. There was always a Lighthouse, and the Net was only what a local fishermen used. My first freelance job was with Drama production at Akash Vani, Bangalore, (if you discount our Amateur Theatre, age 5, 6, 7, ..with neighbour kids. We did Shakuntala, desi Cinderella…. on septic tanks and under guava trees, little knowing oneday we’d be drawing from these Treasures).

Lighthouse from childhood days, S.India, sent in by Capt. J.S. recently.

I’ve volunteered at Schools where our blind son was at, and being with these beautiful people reminds me e-v-e-r-y-d-a-y of how we misunderstand some acts/ facts of everyday living: how I interpret the word “Challenged”, what ‘handicap’ implies. Or the word, ‘Special’. Our second daughter once remarked with loud sigh, ” …maybe if I’d had some sort of disability I’d be called Special!” It was a rude awakening for us; and I’m thinking now, perhaps the worst disability is a bored person/ with lack of confidence, or someone who has no foundational strength.

And this:

  1. We are really only using 2% or less of our faculties.
  2. We as a Race are now probably farthest from our creative selves than we’ve ever been. Illness both physical and otherwise, could be changing us into a species of indifferent mammals, or ones controlled by Fear.

A few years ago, Dr.Joseph, a good friend of ours here in Bangalore, invited me to a Conference for Personality Developers. ‘Be yourself’ he said.

Was I nervous? Sure, but not just nervous. I’d grown to be a full time mom by now, and hermit artist with little worry about boardroom protocol. (At home we were getting used to the world of the ‘Disadvantaged‘, with firm jaws and steel too!…)

by 3 pm that day, it was clear my notes weren’t going to work: it had been a morning full of discussion on reasons for Communication breakdown. I would need to change the dialogue here to get through to Tea break without everyone yawning at me.

I look back with a happy shudder:

me in sedate blue sari, waving my kitchen wooden potato masher in version of how early man oh, and woman !- may have communicated before they made polite words.

The room burst with noise and laughter as some immediately traded ‘fight‘ stories;

Soon it was time to ask, “How many sides does a coin have?”

One replied,”Heads, tails, and shadow..”

Impression on palm, if count is held tightly.”

Education and growing up show negatives and positives: the 3rd side is what I have learned from both.”

We asked a blindfolded volunteer to feel & describe a coin as if he’d never touched one before, and he said, “Flip side, flop side oh… and edge!” Just like Varun the Blind kid had put it.

One lady who had been very quiet, now smiled and said she’d not wanted to participate, (what difference would it have made to her regular life?), & how the potato masher here had seemed silly, but that it was funny and reminded her of somethings she’d forgotten…also, how we best change from regular to a little more ‘unusual‘, please?

A theater person in the room said he’d been thinking on similar lines…but did not know how to break ice in a room he wasn’t used to; and how writing Plays made him appreciate the Unexpected.

Four years ago.

Today we live in a modest apartment overlooking army acres of forest: there’s no sparrow, but yesterday we had two peahen, and one visiting Bulbul…..

all from the balcony where Joh and I took baby steps at Homeschooling via NIOS, after his 7th std at Jyothi Seva for the Blind.

I remember hating Braille, crying my heart out, knowing there’s 4.8 million more blind people in India alone, and how little we are geared for Challenges. There would be new ones to face in the next few years, but each only serves to stretchhhhhhh my rigid bones. Life, and you and I, are changing as we speak,

it all shifts faster than we have time to buy another outfit in newer coutre! One thing remains – the Human need for fulfillment, via connectivity with other humans or self.

I grew up with tribals for friends, sometimes a deer, or a lizard that left its tail in my book! There were no Malls, or Google; Life had surprises everyday in its lulls and rogue waves,

Look at this :

Our mind can perform 10 Quadrillion operations/ sec without our even knowing it.

We are heirs of choice, of life sentences. I believe a very sick person with even a little taste of joy will spread that joy like an epidemic.

Imagine the power of a human alone or with another. What a big bazaar of Spheres we must all be: impacting each other in ways we might never know yet, with or without words.

Our son Joh, had a semi- paralyzed friend who could not speak, but when we entered his room, his whole body language changed. Joh could not see him, but they had their own unique exchange that was fascinating to watch: a world of touch, the vibrations of laughter… sighs, the rhythm of one’s pulse displaying emotion…

Definition of Edge:

  • Line or area farthest away from the middle.
  • Intersection of two surfaces.
  • Point at which something is likely to begin.
  • Margin of superiority, advantage.
  • Our single most important skill that makes for ‘Unique‘.

So, WHAT’S MY EDGE?

In my teens, someone told me I smiled too much. By age 23, a BBC retired Staffer who mentored me at Broadcast (Feba Radio), John Fear, he also produced “What they believe”

he said, “Rayla, “he said, “Can you smile now and then? ”

JF’s shock of white hair and piercing blue eyes were daunting, but he was kind. “….though, a little anxiety in the right places, might keep you from harm y’know…..”

He urged me to observe human struggles, victories, tragedies; people in footpaths, and high places…. or in the isolation of misunderstood behaviour.

Decades later I realised I’d developed an almost dangerous fascination for Humans: it made me look at footpaths and invisible people in ways that never left, it began to change our home, it made us gaze at the beauty of all God’s Creation, at Life however mundane or high octane.

Joh & me

After we moved back from Mumbai to Bangalore, our visually challenged son, then 6 years old, would hardly speak, now he was further disoriented with temporary rental house and boxes. One morning right in the middle of a water crisis, as we were filling from one existing tap with borewell supply, the connecting pipe fell away from tap as water filled every place it could get. Our son was stunned, then delighted with all the happy chaos. It was just him and I at that moment, but he took charge, his deft little hands working the pipe back to tap faster than I could. His laughter filled my ears for a long time with the feeling this moment would be remembered forever.

As I write this, there’s an urge to return to subjects I used to hate, retrace some ways of thinking, unlock secrets best known to kids. Or better still, go out to play with them like we did in the age of the unselfconscious, curious innocence.

Did you know : The human eye can distinguish 10 million different colors, ….
Or that your heart beat mimics the music you listen to.
http://www.factslides.com/s-Your-body
….

Who knows what one might find in a guava tree, or how the world looks from a wall, a roof top, a swing? Yes, yes we’d probably need help climbing trees and walls, roof: let’s just say who knows what we will find if we would just stretchhhhhh a little?

@raylarn.

Two figures distant, are our son and eldest daughter. Guy in green Tee & cap, my husband and best friend.
“I lay hold of that for which Christ laid hold of me…” his fav quote.

…..

From my article in Self Development Journal, Shri B.Singh, Education/Welfare trust. Mumbai.

Streets around me

Streets around me

This post inspired by Writing/Believing Sight Unseen‘s post about streets, so I said I’d have a go at my own streets around. He said he would look out for it so here goes πŸ˜…

I’m still not a Google map person, when people come home here in Bangalore, I tell them we’re the lane opposite the huge Banian tree complete with tap roots and birds yelling in it…. uh

past Bamboo shop man’s enclosure for new buildings coming up.

If they’re on a lane further down I must guide them left of CMR law college but which left, depending on which side they’re facing. If they’re facing my tree, then I’m on their left.

Owwwwgh! Which tree they ask, theres more than one tree here. I realise I don’t know location address. Postal address says Reddy layout. Google says I’m at Chingalingakua…..

but this is a post about streets around me,

I’ll try again. If I go out (forget people coming home for now)

if I turn left of my Banian tree, towards the Flyover, there’s the little uphill lane past Chemist and Bake,

past the Aquarium blue roof place(can’t remember name)

alongside two storeyed apartment where recently a biker still in red helmet, well he ran up those stairs to first floor but forgot his keys still in bike. He looks down, sees me, and with friendly grin, asks if I can get keys off his bike and throw it up at him….. that lane.

Go up that lane 2 minutes and seven or more trees to your left, (with cheeky monkey in them),

you get to the Ayyapa temple Cross, rich with people arriving and leaving off blue and white bus, red bus, auto rickshaw and car and bike. There’s a food stall, a toy shop and a garment store across, not to mention cheerful vegetable vendors in carts, they sell some of the best grapes I’ve ever had, wine coloured ones, they’ll stain your shirt if you’re not careful, that street junction

which breaks into a two way Flyover where I happened to get stranded, waiting for an auto rickshaw with my then 8 year old blind hyperactive son….that Flyover

leads to a larger location called JBnagar, aha we finally have a name!

Saturday’s child.

With blind school kids, and a musical I worked with them

His name was Dhru*; he loved the ‘roaring’ bit. Dhru must be at least ten years old today, when we did “Everybody is differently beautiful”, he must’ve been 7? To think he couldn’t see his costume, had no clue what a lion’s mane was like, or even heard it roar, what a sport Dhru was. All these unknown things and he had to act as well as mime singing! But they were all game, as game can get.

I learned how to appreciate life, how to dance even if we missed a step, how to laugh out loud against all odds- from these kids who were my son’s schoolmates. The School asked if I could help out with Spoken English: oh I hinted broadly at Drama and Poetry. They didn’t get the Poetry bit, but one little girl did. She loved every poem in her braille typed book, especially the one that went, “…and Saturday’s child has to work hard for her living…”

It still breaks my heart to recall how they were taught to cross the street by themselves. Some of the older ones were actually going on crowded buses and getting off alone, cheerfully unafraid.

They must learn….how else will they face life?” Their Daily Living Skills teacher asked me.

Sometimes I wish our own Joh weren’t as independent as he is. I wish he were less self reliant, I wish our kids didn’t need to grow up in a world that knows how to take advantage of the ‘disadvantaged’. I wish our roads were safer. But then am proud of every young /older challenged person or otherwise who can “work hard” at whatever Life gives them.

Thankyou young Dhru for reminding me today of people like you who still teach me to be brave and beautiful, no matter what.

..

*name changed

Joseph’s lost head & that Other fantastic Noel!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDyUSTT9sC4


The First Noel by Vihan Damaris.
A Carol that has our family name(Noel) hehe! And that’s our daughter. Do listen if you would.
Crib by Cheshire House inmates, Mumbai: Shalu a lady with one arm, Mikai, the paralytic…

We took them out one by one. Joseph has lost his little clay head and there’s no time to fix him back so I cover his torso with a tiny cane head piece. Can you spot Joseph?

Our son Johann is blind and yes he put out each figure like last Christmas, but this time, post seizures/ meds, he cannot concentrate. His hands shake and I do not insist that Joseph goes next to Mary, so it’s all askew. Does it matter, I wonder.

Would the real Joseph have been quietly seated next to new mom Mary? Wouldn’t he have lost his head, even just a wee bit,with this surreal pregnancy of his betrothed, a ferocious Herod, … the details of that divine birth blow my mind each time. My spirit fills with gratitude that over the years, Christ has not stayed in clay, but has gazed into my life with very real presence.

Confusing picπŸ‘†? Our tiny Tree from a Shopping complex. I’d love to think those are two fairies legs!

The reality of Christmas is fantastic. A Divine Babe that grew to face a Cross, a resurrection garden, He would walk through walls to get through my heart of stone.

May the heart of you be warmed warmed warmed this season, with Love Divine from the Manger to the moon and back.πŸ’“

Have you seen someone inhale music thru’ their ears…

My Jeff (Noel – no one else would put up with my messy paint tubes and books in corners and centre stage of my life), when he listens to music it’s like he’s breathing it in via ear phones. I’ve not seen someone savour music the way he does; it’s his profession (Sound) yet him soaking it in with palms clasped over headphones makes me realize the gift of music is to be unwrapped, opened to senses and inhaled into spirit… the Balm of Gilead!

We’re listening to a recording of our three children doing their take on Kanye’s Jesus is Lordhttps://youtu.be/p2TuJFlv2Uk

Johann in black Tee, with guitar Vihan next to striped girl Kitsy

(they’re at a carol a day: drummer boy, 3 kings, God resting merry gentle…)

where they get their joy is something to watch; it’s been a month of us battling med induced aggression with our son, I’ve written my nails blue on this one but that’s not the story here. Gratitude spills out my ears that mid all this there can be music? Maybe because its December, maybe it’s that time God’s letting in a new season. This time around I wasn’t able to think on a carol, then the kids do what they do in season and out. Music’s been a norm, a hard habit to break. It’s now a best friend. A gift from God, unwrapped over and over. Jeff gets his headphones out, his brown eyes swim out at me for joy, what else can describe this… comfort,hope,healing….

ay weeping may endure a night but joy comes in the morning.

Thankyou God that trusting You isn’t a myth, You’re not a long ago Shepherd with Psalmist sheep in tow, You’re not stuck in Time- wrapped in swaddling diapers, You’re not even embalmed on iron crosses for us to kiss when we can’t pray. You’re here.

I don’t know when healing will arrive for sure, but this is a greater miracle that Peace can trek thru’ storms with us. It’s a miracle that our son pushing through momentary random aggression can even smile and pause to sing.

Jeff is a warrior. I go climbing walls when am anxious; sure I pray but I turn into a praying spider woman. He’s the calm lake of Galilee thankyou Lord Precious Jesus.

Thank You for people in our lives who have ears to hear Your Music, Your Voice mid all others’. Thank You that Christmas is more than a Season of Decor & Shine. Thank You that though it’s a long trek through Valley of the Shadow of Doubt we need fear no evil, You’re there.

Ow. This was an instagram post. Jeff&me.