25 February 2012

The Miseducation of Miss Kamal

Yes I've attended colleges and universities and have some sheets of papers that have some names of degrees printed on them, gathering dust somewhere in some cupboard that defies a kingdom of termites out of sheer fear of my mother.

But I'm not talking about that education. I'm talking about my miseducation. The one that I could have almost missed. The one that's cleverly hidden away until we look in the unlikeliest of places. It's really like finding a lion in a teacup.

Miseducation Number 1.
Theatre. Had I not been involved with it since an early age, I wouldn't have understood words the way I continue to. I would have been literate but not truly educated. Thank you script, stage, sound, lights and costume. You have been my toys and my weapons and I owe you much.

Miseducation Number 2.
Manooghi Hi. Music is looked upon as entertainment. As a hobby. As a passion. Rarely a job. Never a miseducation. But this band is miseducation at its best. It seduced me, in the last few years to re-examine old theories, concepts, even distorted words, corrupted ideas, birthed sound with a screech that left me cross-eyed between desire and disgust. This band of crazy, wonderful, miraculous, hopeful losers, taught me things about my own job, my beliefs and then rattled every part of my brain into unlearning it. I don't know how and why they do it and how the hell they find the strength and drive that allows them not just to be fabulous musicians but to really educate, teach, impart and colour the world they touch, in the most brilliant paroxysms of sound and word. Thank you Mehnaz, Todd, Ava, Hollis, Jimmy, Jarrod, Kent. You are the actual spelling of Hope and Joy.

Miseducation Number 3.
Teaching India. From a tiny volunteering teaching job to being a guest lecturer at the National Institute of Fashion Technology in Hyderabad, teaching is the biggest miseducation of all. We know nothing is a phrase that pops out in particular. The youth, the biggest know-it-all group in the world is a hungry predator and if you're not practising the kill, they'll chew you up and spit you out with their thousands of questions and why nots. I owe them all a debt of gratitude for re-educating me about education and teaching and the courage, discipline and fun that are prerequisites. Degrees are for sale. Those are not. Thank you, Nishrin and all the students. Even the ones who dozed in class or texted behind a book. Yup, I knew. I just need to teach better.

Miseducation Number 4.
Kristin Pedroja. Yes, that's right. One person. When we met. 2003. Number of times we've met since then. Zero. Number of times we've collaborated on ideas, taught, critiqued, cajoled, helped, exposed, trashed, praised and assisted in nothing less than a PhD in 'The Thankless Pains Of Writing.' 987,654,321. A tiny woman who's so tall, it's hard for me to imagine not walking with that shadow by my side as I toil over each sentence, punctuation and character. She is proof that no publisher, no literary agent, no appointed editor can do for your writing what a writer who really loves to write, read and selflessly share her brain, can. Thank you, Kristin. You're really one of my Tall Women.

And thus continues the Miseducation of Miss Kamal for which she's truly grateful. These are not paper degrees nor are they merit badges. They are simply what allow me to find and refine my unique expression. And then try to find a word that's not as un-unique as unique.

10 February 2012

Like or Unlike

This is the first posting in 2012 and it's strange that I'd opt for a topic related to technology rather than the things I love - books, art, music. But I observe that the things I love are somewhat reluctant hostages to technology in many ways and so I find myself unable to live in a world where the two are separated. Coming from a generation that was truly transitionary - we went from the rotary dial telephone to the mobile communication devices we use today- it's been a wild ride from simplicity to sleek sophistication. In other words, user friendly gadgets designed to make our lives easier and faster. 

Frankly I'm a bit of a luddite and a bit lost. I know how to use a telephone, a television and a computer. I know the various brand names and the various formats and the various uses. I know I know I know. Do I care? I apparently don't. Sure, this blog wouldn't be happening if someone named Gates or Wozniak or Jobs hadn't done what they did and I'm probably grateful to them in some sort of begrudging way. But did they put the thoughts into my head? I'd like to shout out a resounding NO. We've learned to do everything faster and in more colours than we can pronounce, but haven't learnt how to be more creative, more thoughtful, more patient, more kind or more responsible. We've just learned how to spin the wheels faster and change them every nine and a half days. Upgrades we call them. But we upgrade things. Not ourselves. Updates we call them. But we update things, Not our deeds. 

I'm not against technology, certainly. In fact, I do embrace it. I like my fancy new phone and my fancy new iPad and what have you. I like I like I like. I even like the Like button. But I keep circling back to the same thought in my uncomputerised brain. What about me? What about you? What about the people I interact with or hate or love? What about them? There seems to be an inverse ratio between technological upgradation and human upgradation. The more buttons we play with, the less human we seem to become. 

In the last year, there have been incredible upheavals of man and nature. The humanity of man has seen a sharp and direct drop just as technological advancement has reached new peaks. Isn't there something wrong with this picture? I would rather have one less version of Apple or BlackBerry or Android or whatever and one more version of charity, kindness, justice and peace. Would you?

The race towards the smallest chip, the thinnest computer, the fastest car and the biggest building is unstoppable. But in the midst of all this demonic speed, our humanity is still wrapped somewhere around the cord of the rotary dial telephone.