Subscribe To My Podcast

Sep 4, 2010

Audacity of Art

The giant display case on the wall, still had the newspaper cutout. It mentioned she was a Child Prodigy, and carried a picture of her with her teachers. Near it, the trophy she had won the school last year, glistened. But today, when she whispered wishes, none of the teachers, listened..She stood head bowed, outside the Principal's Office.

This year, she hadn't won the Prestigious Painting Competition, yesterday. Her Art Teacher was disgusted with her. While her parents were furious and ashamed of her. She was scared, of the Principal, but tried to console herself with, it can't be worse, I will get used to it in couple of days.

Yesterday night, she had painted on the topic again, and had taken it to the Art Teacher today morning. It was a gesture meant to convey, I get it, I can do it. But that just infuriated the Teacher more."You knew what was required, and yet had the audacity to paint, something else yesterday!" she had screamed, flinging away the painting in disgust. The seven year old girl, wondered if that was the reason she was being called to the principal's office.

Summoned, she went meekly in, scared. Not daring to look at the principal in the eye. "I heard you didn't win this time" He said. She managed to mumble, she realised what was required and that the entrance fee was big and she was sorry to disappoint all those who supported her...

He interuptted her with "Did you give it your best?"

She looked up suprised, eyes brimmed with tears, blinking. She bit her lower lip, to stop it from quivering. Choked with emotions, she managed to nod furiously.

"Well, then, well done." came the reply and she stood in a daze, and stared, amazed.

"I am not an expert on Art, but the essence of Creativity is not Popularity but Integrity. Be true to Yourself and Express Yourself. I am told, Van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime, yet today his paintings are worth millions. Not just in art, whatever you do, as long as you are not harming others, be Yourself, thats why You were created. You are unique, just like everyone around You."

"Now, have they given back, your painting?" She nodded and dug out the Dud Painting from her school bag. She summoned up courage and dared to ask "Do you like it?". He smiled and said, no, I won't pretend to like it. But as long as you like it, its Priceless not Worthless."

"But my parents are upset that I wasted their money and painted a Dud" she said through sobs.

"I will talk to your parents" he said. "Artists are not like fixed deposits, which churns out safe returns, but like equities. Sometimes Superlative,and brilliant  returns and at times shocking " he paused,  "Duds". If we start expecting artists to deliver safe bets, we will only produce mediocre artists, who are scared to experiment and take risks."

Passing back the painting, the Principal said she could leave, the little girl still dazed thanked the principal and with a twinkle in his eye the Principal probably said "Welcome". But why did she hear it as "Swagatham"?

Outside, the girl leaned on the wall and murmered, I am probably day dreaming again.

Dedicated to Ms.Khan, Madhavrao Bhagwat High School, Vile Parle, Mumbai. 
Mam, decades ago, I argued with you and turned out to be wrong. You didn't take me to task, for my audacity. But appreciated it with "Its good to have Its good to have confidence like this, keep it up". A passing remark, it might have been to you. But not for me. I only vaguely remember the lesson in History I argued about, but your response, when I felt humiliated, has made you an integral part of my history. Teachers like you are the true artists, who shape our nation's future. You mould us, not with just knowledge but your attitude and affection. Happy Teacher's Day.


  1. Teachers can make or break lives. The kind of expectation from performers (from parents, teachers, relatives, neighbours...)put so much stress on them leaving them as underperformers, eventually in life.

    A small word of appreciation from people who matter can make a big difference (like the principal in your story and Ms.Khan in your real life!)

  2. is it a real story?.. I could feel every moment in it..
    teachers in school are very imp cos we spend most of our school life with them, more than our parents....I've seen people who dont speak up in class due to fear of being made fun of by teacher..when they make a mistake..cos of which they always end up under-performing.
    nice post for teachers day :)
    hey it shows a post..loyalty logic something..but the page is not found??

  3. RGB yes so true, they make and break lives. i have had my share of both:) but thankfully the quality and quantity of make have been more.
    i still remember a teacher scorning me in 3rd std. but i also remember the encouragement and goodness of many other teachers.

  4. unknown no its not true !(Except the Ms.Khan part).
    For more than a month I wanted to write a story on my Van Gogh theme of be yourself, forget others opinion of you. but i got carried away by other posts.
    an article in ibnlive on ARR and your Sivamani comments forced me to write this.

    Most of my short stories are a subtle dig on the current affairs, but its not easy to get the connection.

    This is my tribute to ARR (I know I have been unfair to him, saying Bappida would have done a better job, because i was disappointed with his song, but when i read the ibn article and saw how they were thrashing him without getting facts right, i wrote this)

  5. the akshaykumar rap became a comment in shades of saffron post:)

  6. unknown you probably felt it could be real, because I felt it. these characters live in my head and this girl had been living for over a month, shoving her painting in my face. (if it gets more real i should be seeking psy treatment. and i am glad she is out now. and i hoping to take a break for few days at least. but thats something i have been thinking after last 7-8 posts.)

    i just added the principal character, otherwise it would have been just about a journey back from the contest and painting something that would have won.

    must compliment you on your patience to read through ketan and my comment:)

  7. u have revealed ur secret..on how u write such stories..nice to know that..
    laughing on the psy treatment :D..
    actually the other day..I couldnt take all of the comments u and others much about biases,perceptions..and everytime I was trying to understand from the writer's point of view....Its was like when you read too much for an feel like throwing up it was same for me that day..
    but today I read all of it patiently..
    ..that rap was some creative one..though silly..pls u shouldnt bury it under comments:)

  8. great one....made me remember the good old skul days....a smaal story that spoke big emotions.gr8 writing

  9. unknown from childhood days, i used to imagine scripts to entertain myself. these days kids probably outsource it to tv.
    anyway, some characters have remained with me for over 20 years! ( and like in tv serials they don't age accordingly.
    if you liked this story you could read the imagine series. i wrote it as a male blogger, named jupiter:D

    these characters are still in my head though i did only few posts on them.

    the akshay rap i thought would be tiring for others.people need a pause, too much theory brings me headaches:D

  10. Hey WD, that was an insightful post about your outlook and a well churned thought process, I am not sure how many of us understand that it's not all about being "Van Gogh" "Picasso" from the start, things come and fall in place with time or sometimes after time...I had such great teachers too in my life who have made everlasting imprints in my life.

  11. P.S. I am adding you on my blogroll :)

  12. thanks Palak:)
    Yes, Its not about becoming Van Gogh but thinking, I will be what i am and what i want to be.

  13. Wise Donkey: That was a good one. I agree how teachers have the power to either nip a flower in the bud or to let it bloom into a beauty. Just compelled to write how news items today are revealing teachers of the present day as monsters! Really pains me to hear those awful stories.

  14. punam there are good and bad teachers..:)what to do
    and in India, 1.2 million no teachers - TOI, today.

  15. I saw ur pages as list in the sidebar and wanted to suggest u to keep as tab pages on top..but u did it today :)

    About teachers..of late the news articles we read..teacher beating up students brutally..students committing suicides..I believe these used to happen in the past also..good that they are coming out in media..and the bad teachers get punished..

    teachers should have done a mandatory course on psychology..

    What do you think about punishment?
    I always believed teachers should have the right to punish..that should not be stripped off..lets not copy the western way, where even parents dont have the right..

  16. westerners punish children. perhaps in a different way. the timeout or deprivation of toys etc works better than a slap.

    if its not ok to use physical punishment with parents who can hit you back when they don't listen to you, how can it be okay with kids.

    abuse in the form of punishment, doesn't stop a person from doing something, just makes him/her think of a way to not get caught.

    crime rates are low not when the punishment is harsh but when the system is fair.

    PS : i am not perfect. few months back i had hit my 2 andhalf year old few times. but i did apologise each time for losing my temper but now i don't.

    violence is not ok, when you have the upperhand its just cowardice and bullying.

    Even a sneer from a teacher can impair a child. so they should be made more responsible. and definitely no physical punishment.
    When there is a problem its better to involve parents.

    Teachers must be taught how to be fair and firm.

  17. Hey WD.. yes THats what is required and thats one shud do .. I have been os lucky that I have had some beautiful teachers who have taught me, though at that time I was too carefree but now there words ring in my ears ..

    Some of the teachers I talk to now, remember me and I am glad they were my teachers .. I am what I am today because of Them.. Always said to me , I have the capabilities but anyway The point is that whenever i did something win or loose was never a issue they always appreciated me and as the principle said GIVE YOUR BEST thats what is important rest all is luck.

    These days winning has become a trend if you dont win you are a looser , or you are not fit enough to be in the society, parents have there heads down in shame there 7 year or 8 year did not win something , when i was 7 I hardly participated or i was too busy breaking window panes of neighbours playing cricket or running from the gardner after stealing jamun..
    That is what kids should be doing not put under pressure to WIN..

    if we look logically 99% of people in any phase are Loosers because anywhere there is always only 1 who wins rest loose.. so what the big deal we are one of the crowd..

    I really am in favour of putting a stop to all this pallava , there should be no competetions for kids , it messes there head around, and parents should know better they were kids too , and so do teachers.
    physical punishment , tougher laws I AGREE WITH THAt , now that doesnot mean you go beserk on a kid beating them black and blue NO, but yeah FIRM.. I dont agree with lenient laws NO
    I work and i know how soul crunching they are, sometimes i dont want to go and work, for whatever i do its useless.

    they had the saying SPare the ROd Spoil the kid , it was there for a reason, I am not saying it should be done , but if circumstances deserve then YES ..

    The problem we have now is that kids Dont not appreciate the elders whoever they are parents,teachers or anyone .. I remember when i was a kid i was SCared of teachers Dare not speak back to them, and that has not done ME ANY WRONG.. I can understand a balance needs to be there excess will always harm..

    In Uk this is what the problem is , you say something the kid is quick t odial 999 and the polcie officer who knows its wrong STill has to do go and have a word with the teacher or parents, I have had to do that so many times and i feel embarassed .. and when the Same kids goes the wrong way they blame the parents .. what is parent to do when they were being firm they were told they are curbing the child growth being bad to the kid.

    I hope we all grow up and have some sense of duty and care ... How many kids have gone astray with punishement and how many have not ... I remember my teacher Mr. sharma he would beat us with hockey sticks , i got them so many times and it did not matter to him where we got hit..

    I also remember a incident where parents had some to get there child from school, he had run away to watch a moview without permission and Mr sharma went beserk because he was responsible, so when the kid came he got a thrashing of a lifetime there right in front of the kids, when the mother said something she was told she can take the kids home for ever, I did not appreciate it then but it did no harm , that kid dared not go or run away without permission again..

  18. This is jsut a example, I did a bit of teaching in my initial days of career in india, and as it is I did use my hands sometimes not always, and NOW some of the kids i taught write to me some of them are so successful in there life and they send thankyou cards and aletter sayign that if i had not been stern with them , they would not have achieved what they have some of them are Industrialists, a couple are heartthrobs in bollywood etc etc

    So I would say Let the kids enjoy there childhood if they are wrong sure they shud be punished to a limit .. they should know right or wrong.. the parents are not punisheming them for what they are wrong Rather they are pushing them to WIN and putting more pressure on them which is effecting them mentally and that is much worse then punishment ...

    Let them knwo that they shud give there BEST and thats what is required of them Winning loosing is secondary ...

    oooops I writtne a whole post on this he hehe

  19. well i know of a teacher abroad who was pinched by her student and went crying to the PRincipal:D
    and i do agree that kids don't respect their teachers as much as an earlier gen used to. but respect should be earned by capability and competence.
    if the kid does a mistake write to parents and if the parents refuse action, suspend. but
    i dont think its right to hit. what if the kid gets hurt?

    many teachers can control the kids with a stern look, they don't need to hit.
    partly kids don't respect because they think money can solve all problems.

    there are millions of kids in India who yearn for a school on one end and we have spoilt brats on the other end.


    on reality shows and competitions, sadly the school encourages more tamashas for publicity purpose.

  20. you used to teach bikram? Happy Teacher's Day:)

  21. yes i used to 3 years I did it :)

    Yes indeed respect needs to be earned.. but i strongly beleive there has to be a sense of FEAR too.. Its that what is lost and hence all that is happening.. I dont say start hitting the kid no way, But if a child or anyone has that fear element then at least they will think twice before doing anything.

    The problem is parens dont have time anymore, earlier one was at home usually the mother, nowadays both parents work, school gets over at 3 and kids are alone to do anything till parents come home and by the time they come home the parents are so tired they dont want the hassle of listening to the kids.

    something has to be done otherwise things are gonna get more worse.. a kid in 10th class take a gun to school to kill someone..
    The first time i had a gun in my hand was when i was in final year of college.

    Respect is very important till the kids start to respecct things will not change ...

    and thanks for the wishes :)

  22. hey i didn't have a mother at home, but i was more respectful of teachers than those who had mothers at home. and no my parents weren't not the perfect we are the family parents.
    and i felt i had to be responsible because i had so much freedom.

    more than parents i think its the too much money in the system and how money is made, thats behind the problem. how many kids from poor background will dare to disrespect the teacher.

    its simple when parents don't respect the society, the children don't respect.

    anyway i think by hitting a student, the teacher shows he/she is incompetent to handle the situation like an adult. hitting someone who is below is just bullying and cowardice, whatever the provocation.

    if the schools suspends those who disobey do you think students would disobey. while the school might get new students, perhaps the students won't pay that much donation.

    when a parent indulges in white collar crime, whether its using office stationary (yeah i think its a petty crime not a perk) or takes money to hire some employee (i have seen it often in private sector) or uses office time to do personal work (how many of those who use office time to do personal work would complain if their maids talked on their mobile while working) or watch a pirated movie, send a message to their kids that its ok to not have values if its convenient.

    and there are teachers who lament the lack of values yet teach less in class so that kids come to them for tution! they do exist!

    i think an added factor is the mushrooming of coaching classes and centers to help class projects(!!). kids think school and colleges are for fun and coaching classes and tutions for studying.

  23. oh how sweet..i know how dedicated my wife is as a teacher..but it is sad that teachers dont get the right recognition or pay..when v looked for a job no school in chennai was offering more than some very popular institutions..came as a shocker to me as she had got the best teacher award in dubai's best school..

  24. ramesh i think the state govt recently made a rule on how much fees can be charged and some schools said they are going to cut costs. not sure if that had anything to do with it.
    i wonder who makes money from education probably management.

  25. beautifully expressed. I have so much that I can write, but I won't. I hope you understand the sentiment.

  26. thanks rachna
    of i understand but you have made me curious:)

  27. Teachers are so important in our lifehey mould the young minds.

  28. LIked the story. It touched a chord somewhere. And sorry to be late. it was a busy week.

  29. I remember when my English teacher in X class would start scolding, the entire class would giggle! She had a way about her, that in spite of the words she would use, every child, would adore her to no end. She would call kids porcupines and other such funny words, and sometimes, kids would actually irritate her to make her fire her funny words. She was the senior-most teacher, had worked in our school for 20 years. The irony was, that she had no kids of her own. She was responsible for beautiful handwriting, that my school students were recognized by, all across the city.
    But she really did mould us into responsible students. Everytime I speak about her, it is in pure reverance. And the same school had an incident where a teacher was accused of trying to eve-tease a girl student!!

    Those were times (although only a decade ago), when kids were tolerant of teachers' discipline.. not today! Today, a small whack on the back, is termed corporal punishment.

    SOmewhere, I believe, values have gone down on both the sides. Increasing incidents of teachers turning demons, is wreaking havoc for the entire teaching community, since such incidents tend to develop cynicism against teachers in general, and the kids become intolerant as a result.

    There was a time, when I used to love playing teacher-teacher in childhood. I dreamt of becoming a teacher when I grew up. But now, I don't want to, atleast not where I live. It's become a rat race as is evident from my own surroundings. I see the stress teachers have to take, esp in corporate schools, to meet the percentages they are expected to create. It's all become a business. The joy of teaching is not the same anymore. Cramming, syllabus completion, competition has actually reduced 'learning' in the true sense.


Have a Great Day!