Once upon a time there was an old and small black Television that weaved a magical tale.
When I was growing up and I still am in the process of becoming an adult, there used to be a mini TV set that was mounted on a metal angle in my grandmother's room. This TV had been introduced in her room because she had suffered from a stroke and was in the process of recovery. It was difficult for her to move to the next room. So my father had installed this television which connected to the main and huge big TV set in the room in the dining area by two fat black wires and white metal points. When switched on,it would play the same channels.
This TV set even though was a newly taken out of it's box and played her favorite shows seemed like a pathway to older times where these mini TV sets were the ones that you owned.
It was her way of being connected to the rest of the world which seemed to have stood still for her and her universe confined to that one single room where we could rally around her. This TV set became one of her main interest as the small size of the picture obscured the scheming plots that she wished to follow in all her spicy serials.
It became an indirect and by far the most impressionable influence on her. Now that I look back on it, my father deliberately installed it because he was aware that this might suitably tingle her senses enough to force her into gaining some semblance of life back.
It did. The concept worked. Though she never recovered properly, she took small steps in that direction. This television was the most important step of all since it's small size motivated her to move to the room which would show her a better and a more clearer version of her preferred soap operas and their over the top made up actors and actresses.
She did move to that room becoming triumphant in her efforts . Automatically she fit in with my grandfather's plans of consuming more fruit and milk with her daily dose of spicy entertainment.
So when years later, when she was no more and I would be in that room, I would look at that lonesome small TV. None of us ever thought about removing it or doing anything with it. It had become so much a part of her room and had merged so soundly into the decor that we probably forgot about it till one day I remembered it's brave contribution to the grand scheme of things in the betterment of someone's life.
The memories spawned by this idiot-box will always be a happy one spurring one onto the road to recovery and healing.The TV still has not lost it's magical touch.
What is it that motivates us to talk? To others.
One of the iconic scenes from the film ‘Titanic’ has Rose speaking about how she felt that she could scream and scream and yet no one will hear her in the crowded ballroom. Her fear of no one listening to her directly considered her identity formed from a class consciousness but it rather sums up the fear that anyone feels today.
Whom do you talk to where you are not misunderstood? Talking is a way of letting off steam. Sharing something is important; it apparently leads to closed doors of a heart being opened up. It’s an intimate act. It’s a simple act Is it a simple act? Does anyone out there want to listen, to make an effort to understand you? If someone begins telling you how they really are, don’t we judge them and recede into a shell? Let’s look at our family, the epitome of share and care, at our close friends which should be restricted to a maximum or one or two. Because people get bored if you share your life history, even general stuff. It’s like a bomb exploded in their faces. As much as films advertise the concept of people really wanting to connect, it’s a misdemeanor, an effort doomed from the minute you utter the word. Maybe communications with your family might be good or even your close friends but these are the people who have the power to judge you constantly. What do you do with people who listen to you and the next day contort your words and use them as mild missiles let loose to hurt you? Or where the topic is changed suddenly, the excuse being given that it was to lighten your mood.
Maybe it was to lighten your mood but was that the need of the hour? Deliberate attempts at avoiding doing the needful is the driving force of our relationships.
We can shut our ears and choose not to listen. That is the power of our choice. Or you can talk to people who make you feel as if they have done the greatest thing on this earth by simply listening to you. No doubt it is a favor where you feel the need to thank someone because they heard you out for five minutes even though your intention was renewing a friendship. The better option is not only to shut our ears but shut our mouths and gives in to the reality of being misunderstood, blown out of proportion and finally recede into silence.
Not the golden silence of a library wall but the bitter silence of holding your tongue where no one wants to listen to you.
What other choice do you have?
My cousin all of 5 years old now, my pretty little sister bent over the evergreen fairy tale that you and I had grown up reading and now another generation and the generation next after that was going to read. The vividly colored and beautifully illustrated Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Goldilocks as well as Snow White and the dwarfs. All these fairy tales are a part of our growing up since these are some of the first stories that we are introduced to but what about the impact they leave on the girls who are reading them. Even before they can understand the meaning of ‘a happily ever after’, they are introduced to ‘a happily ever after’ that includes an inevitable marriage and a prince who rescued the damsel in distress. Later we spend a lifetime unlearning these older values that end up composing the structure of our brains. Instead of talking about concepts like equality, independence and gender sensitivity, we through the medium of these immortal stories that end with a typical warning to girls- don’t eat food from strangers, don’t talk to strangers end up imparting a lesson in fear while the modern era clearly demands a different outlook. One that privileges the voice of girl children rather than the villains of these stories. The need to endow our children be it our daughters, sisters or nieces with mobility, agency and most importantly a voice is an urgent demand that cannot be ignored but the kind of literature that we choose to read to them remains forever stuck in this mold of their favorite protagonist, the princess being a passive recipient.
A film like Disney’s ‘Maleficent’ becomes a truly outstanding example and a re-telling of the same old tale through the perspective of both the evil witch who doubles as the fairy godmother who has taken care of Beauty from an early age and a Beauty who instead of a knight in shining in armor is revived by the motherly love of Maleficent.These are the kind of movies that I would like to be seen turned into fairy tales so that the first tales that I or my mother heard do not teach us dependence but advocate the message of self reliance and tell the story of the voiceless ‘she’.
The need for fairy tales that speak about the experiences of the protagonist princess from her point of view in a different vision like ‘Maleficent’ has become the need of the hour.We need to be more careful about the kind of message we choose to teach our kids.Most importantly, the nature of the ‘happy ending’ that the fairy tale envisions is different from the guaranteed one. The ‘evil witch’ is the ‘fairy godmother’ and the happy ending comes inevitably through her. The restoration to order from chaos happens through her.
It is definitely a fairy tale that caters to the modern mind re inventing the inevitable ending in different forms. By the end, Maleficent is the wronged woman whose wings have been snatched away from her. The happy ending sees the triumph of women after a volatile and a violent battle resulting in the King’s death while the Prince stands in the background and waits for his beloved ‘Beasty’ to come to him. They have a relationship which does not end in marriage. She becomes the Queen and the lands are united under the two Queens, Maleficent and Beasty.
A different happy ending from what we have been indoctrinated with. A happy ending that sidelines the men and foregrounds the women. The meaning of a fairy tale evolves as the endings change. The endings are being re-written as are the fairy tales.
When I as per my custom refused to take the daily afternoon nap some 8 years ago, my mother enticed me with the promise of a new story. She wanted some sleep and thus began to tell me of a small boy who was tortured by his aunt and uncle and forced to live in a cupboard beneath the stairs. My mother being an avid storyteller and an enthusiastic reader of books went ahead to describe the scrawny, tortured boy’s cousin who was far worse. But there was one thing which was very special about him. The boy was a wizard. Needless to say instead of putting me to sleep, the story delighted me and I got wide awake and buzzed around my mother’s head for more details. What was the boy’s name? ‘Harry Potter’. I opened an incessant stream of questions which annoyed my mother enough to gift me the entire four book set of ‘The Harry Potter’ series as a Christmas gift.The beginning of a new fantastical adventure in my life. A journey consisting of dark villains,mysterious incidents and wonderful characters that stayed with me well into the night even after the lights went out. It was pure inexplicable delight to hold these books in my hand and read them.
Harry Potter still endears to many.A bond developed between me and these hardbound copies which could not be tampered with. Harry Potter became a reason for renewed happiness. Reading and re-reading a page was what occupied my time. This was one book which could be read and enjoyed by everyone. The absolute sense of euphoria which filled me and my mother and my friends! alike still stands as incomparable.The book’s absolute joyful presence in my life altered it for the better. There was magic in the air which I breathed. Swirling and visible magic that made me stay up all nights to know the end of the magical tale. The book became an essential part of my growing up and what I am today as for many other people over the globe. The Potter magic was evident in the mass mania that that surrounded the release of a new book. Everyone wanted to be a part of that mania. It was the harbinger of many roller coaster emotional rides. Harry’s growing up seemed like a universal coming off age phenomena for the world around me. The ultimate battle, the final book, the last page and the word that ended the series was something which I could never imagine.
The series had to go on. The last word of Deathly Hallows where the conflict gets resolved was never final. In my eyes, it was still a journey which I undertaken with the teenage Potter. A journey that was cheerfulness manifest with chaos and a Manichean battle. The pure and absolute joy of however holding that book remains unparalleled till this date.It introduced me to something which tingled my senses. I opened my eyes wide awake to imagination. I could imagine myself to be a witch and I have no shame in admitting that when I turned 11, I did really shed tears thinking that I was not a witch. Harry’s aggression and despair could move me. I could feel. In a way I as an elementary reader had my cathartic vision which satisfied me. Later, I could detach myself but I still could not stop marveling.
These books still call out to me in a hypnotic manner seducing me into reading them. The book was a safe sanctuary. I could get lost in it. It!s not just one book but everyone somewhere in their lives has ‘that’ book which fills them with ecstasy and wonder and makes them look forward to a life which filled with the magnificence which the book promised. I looked at the world through the eyes of Harry Potter and enjoyed each and every bit of it. This piece is for all those books which gave us this wonder and made us feel this magic. It is a promise to that one constant best friend, I will never let the magic stop.
I had been training for this day since the past five years. The past two years I had put myself through a rigorous teacher training college for this, for my career as a school teacher. It had not been an easy ride. I had worked very hard to find a profession which I actually wanted. I had wanted to specialize in commerce but my parents had insisted on studying English literature. Once I entered the course, I enjoyed it. I decided to pursue a teaching course for higher studies. My entire two years had been filled with classes in a far off area where travelling was really difficult. Today was going to be my first step towards attaining that goal. I was scheduled for to appear for an interview for the post of an English teacher in a prestigious school for students of class 9th and 10th.
Nervous, I made my way to the interview room as the fourth candidate in line for the interview. The interviewers looked formidable and stared in my reply to good morning. Then the lady in the spectacles wearing saree smiled (professionally) and welcomed me to sit. “Please, sit down Ashna”.
It had been a great day. I called up Mom and Dad to inform them. My interview had gone well. I had managed to answer all the questions. The school needed to hire an English teacher urgently. I had cleared all the stages: the written exam, the personal interview and the classroom interaction. I had the job in my hand with the formalities being processed over the week.
My parents were as excited as me. I had been planning to head back before the final results were going to be announced so had bought 4 patties for everyone to share at home along with a cup of coffee from the canteen. It was then, when I was asked to wait. Stepping out from the metro station, I interrupted my animated chirruping to my parents on the phone to think about those potato patties. I had bought those 3 hours earlier so decided to give them to a beggar child sitting on the stairs of the station along with whatever loose change I had and headed home to find my father and mother waiting for me with pizza and coke. Our own small celebration...
As Ashna headed back to her home, Monu, the beggar kid whom she had given the patties headed towards his own single room home excitedly. He had gotten four full potato patties and 20 rupees in change. These patties would make a sumptuous dinner for both him and his mother with weak teas. His mother worked as a maid and he attended a government school but at evenings, he would go and beg at the metro station. He looked down at his rumbling stomach and patted it lovingly.
These potato patties would be a small celebration...
About the Author
Aspiring writer who likes to see the different colors of the world and then write them down. Shrehya Taneja is currently studying English literature at Delhi University and likes to keenly observe things. She is a forever aspiring author who is interested in viewing the world differently. Among other things she loves books and traveling along with her pet dog and the simple things in life.
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