Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Happily beautiful, or beautifully happy ?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I know.

If only the left brain stayed out of the beholding.

And one man's beauty may be another man's irritation.

Or so it seems.....

She comes home all excited.

They are now doing some full fledged projects at her animation school. Each one has to select a category, and has to, according to some prespecified size norms, create things like posters, hoardings, visiting cards, letterheads, banners, PR gift items etc...after choosing a subject.

She has some in mind, and she rushes home from a very early morning class. She needs to discuss this with someone at home. Toss ideas around. A few lobs and drops and maybe one or more smashing ideas will make it across to those waiting to see.

"Social" or "socially relevant" is a nice broad category. And she wants to make a project to promote adoption , as a social cause. That will be her term project.

She isn't one of those perennially social aware , theoretically highly enabled, verbalizing types. But she herself is adopted, and has seen life on both sides . The early life, which she hardly remembers. And her life within a family where she is always a star. She knows she is adopted, has been aware of it since the "traumatic teens", except her trauma was more to do with weight issues. Today, she is at peace with herself, thrilled with her weight loss, and tickled with compliments on her choice of clothes :-)

Every festival season, she, along with her family, makes a visit to an orphanage where they distribute sweets, gifts, and play with the children. At the end of the visit, she reluctantly says goodbye to the children. She enjoys organizing games for them, talking to them, indulging them, and playing with them a bit, too. And the little ones there, from a crawling baby to a young 3 year old pretending to play cricket using a broken doll as a ball, then get back to their life, as she returns to hers.

She has come up with a wonderful poster with faces of little children all over in the background, some male-female signage hazily drifting there, and amidst various information on institutions handling adoption, a wonderful well known poem , that places the child , not in a womb, but just above, in the heart/below it.

A child, not "expected", but "selected".

Her family watches. Amazed. She suddenly gets a new idea. Google to the rescue. A drag here. A Click there. A critical look. A hint of a smile.

Late into the night, she is done.

She rushes in to class the next morning. The teacher needs to see what she has come up with . The various items may be required to be redesigned. He will comment and suggest. She is supposed to implement.

They say some colors are to be avoided , depending on the subject. Red is considered a "danger" color. You never have that in a place where you convey something childlike and peaceful. Blues, Greens, pale yellows, some pink. So she has heard.......

Her instructor looks at the prepared stuff. Shakes his head. Looks at her, then back at the monitor again. She needs to listen carefully. He will be the one grading her. And he acts tough with those that don't follow .

"The children in your poster, look too happy. It can't be. They almost look beautiful. Change that. You know street children ? Well, that's how the children should look. They are in an orphanage , remember ? How on earth can they be and look so happy and smart ?"

He looks up, and adjusts his tie. Shakes his head. Looks at her to ask if she has understood. He is already late, and must check out 3 more students.

She quietly looks down. Closes her file, Extracts her CD. Packs up her paraphernalia. Wordlessly nods, with apparent respect, something she has learned in the existing schooling system.

All the way home in the bus, she keeps wondering, her thoughts careening through highs and lows, in sync with the potholes on the road.

Was something wrong with her vision ? Was she missing something ? And why was her instructor putting street children in an unhappy slot ?

Street children had parents. Parents who were worried , but helpless; and so the children grew up before their time. Became street smart. She has seen street children in trains. They were tough, but full of empathy for those in a similar boat.

The children at the orphanage where she visited, were simple children who enjoyed the security of a wonderful roof and a feeling of innocent friendship with those around them. They enjoyed decent clothes, meals, careful attention , festival sweets and learned to listen to those older to them.

And they were happy. She should know....

And so she is on the horns of a dilemma.

Should she sit and explain to the instructor, that what he was suggesting was simply not true? She had her unique experience. She had been there, done that. Happy children on the poster would draw potential adoptive parents to the place. What he was suggesting, besides not being true, would keep people away......

He was the sole instructor responsible for the grade, and thence the certificate. Was her ability to clarify and explain things going to be useful ? To a person, who, in an effort to hide his ignorance about the topic, was blithely giving , authoritatively, just plain wrong advice ? Would he be honest enough to credit her with using her actual experience, even though it was completely opposite of what he was advising ?

So she came home that day. Quietly searched again. Dragged, clicked, moved, and placed things. Automatically. She had other subjects to study. She'd submit the project like he wanted, take his grades, and finish, and get her certificate. And she would be alert and careful, if she ended up having to take another software topic with the same instructor later.

She'd finish off her assignments, submit and get her grades. She'd acquire her qualification, and leave.

One thing to learn was the software. The other thing you learned was how much importance to attribute to what someone said, whether it was right, and how much time to spend in rebuttal, particularly in a closed system.

She kept the old poster.

Made another one. The sad variety.

Then very quietly, she deleted her name which she had signed at the bottom right corner.

He might think this poster was beautiful. He beheld. It was his eyes.

She did not. She kept the old poster with her, with the happy children, and her signature at the bottom.

She thought that was wonderful. She too beheld. With her own eyes. And would continue to do so.

They say beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Sometimes, though, one wonders if the eyes are open............. 

This entry is a part of the contest at in association with


  1. Hi,

    Nice way of putting the facts.. These are i guess some of the ways we lose our innocence as we grow up..
    Coz we are moulded into what others see or think..And mostly with teachers and educationists, they sometimes overlook that every person is entitled to a seperate opinion which may or may not be exactly like theirs.

    It is nice to know that she did resist getting cast in the mould in the subtle way possible.
    "She kept the old poster with her, with the happy children, and her signature at the bottom"

    Loved this.. May the beauty and innocence remain .


  2. What is about the organised structured SYSTEM that forces everything into a made-to-order frame? I've seen this in education, now you've told us about the social welfare sector....who decides that street children should have ONLY THIS kind of expression and NOT THAT? Who decides that THIS IS CORRECT and not that? Initiative, originality and spontaneity are the first victims of bureaucracy. Thank you for talking about this issue which is so close to my heart, so close that it rankles every time I think about it.

  3. Hi!

    Yes, this is exactly how things are in our education system. Creativity is not encouraged and students are not supposed to have their individual way of looking at situations.

    Such a sad state of affairs!

  4. That was beautiful. I shed a few tears. When I read your work I always wonder who the people are. "They say beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Sometimes, though, one wonders if the eyes are open............." so true isnt it and the worst thing is she had to go along with this guy in order to get her pass, Life, isnt it? Fantastic writing. Thank you.

  5. It is much the same in a real working situation that when the boss thinks one way and you another, his ideas are accepted.

    The part I liked the best from your essay is that she removed her name from the poster the instructor liked and kept it on her own work. I liked that. When she has her own ad company, then her creativity can soar.

  6. Very touching. And also what happens when you impose your thoughts and ideas on impressionalbe minds!


  7. This is a very deep and touching account of where we are. And who we can be, despite how the world around us is !

    Kudos to the young girl. Who, imho, strikes a practical balance between what she thinks is right and what needs to be done.

    It is indeed a revelation to see such children. And to know that such children exist, makes it easier to hope and wish for dawn to break in early. And that all is not lost...!

    This is so touchingly awesome. My congratulations to the truly happy one !

  8. The same sad story of how students must conform to teachers however knowledgeable or not they are!
    'She' was right to do what she did! I hope she used the old poster some where to inspire people! And, I'm glad that the instructor could not convince her!

  9. Hi, you write well, your writing is exceedingly praiseworthy.

  10. Once again you have shown the 'correct way' while showing the way things often are .... Thanks Kate xxx.

  11. How sad that she had to accept his way in order to get her qualification. I wonder what he would have done if she had told him the truth? Sometimes, people just refuse to see things the way they actually are.

  12. tina Our system really specialses in destroying originality....and perpetuating hierarchy...

    SucharitaI guess if you are in the sciences, this kind of problem isnt very common. But we need to have differently sensitized faculty folks in the arts and letters. The problem is, people stop being learners once they think they are teachers....

    manju Somehow, i tend to think that in my childhood (early sixities), education was much better , and people were more sensitive. ....

    anneAmen indeed.

    Lilly Thank you. And yes, the people are exactly who you might think they are. :-) I guess one learns from such episodes. But one cringes at the insensitivity of it all.....

    amber star Shades of the real big and bad world ? I suppose its better that she become aware of things as they exist outside. Thank you.

    Vivek Educating is all about throwing useful thoughts at the child, and teaching and training him/her to either catch them and learn, or make mistakes and learn. But this was a case of throwing without aim, with complete disregard for the recipient. Unfortunately thats what education has become today.

    Kavi Yes, the child learns. A lot. But is restrained from reacting. And that stuffing of the mind hurts. Agonizing over arbitrary words and attitudes, maybe a good learning process to toughen up children, but I wish we had more sensitive teachers, so silence would be a contemplative thing instead of a frightened thing, for a young girl...

    Roshni I hope someone gets to see both the posters. Maybe there is a more sensitive person amidst the audience....who knows...but thats how you get shaped here ...

    Mohammed Ali thank you.

    Kate, Judy, Hitchwriter Sad isnt it ? That originality should take such a beating vis-avis a hierarchy obsessed unoriginal thinking.....

  13. This is the way we encourage cookie cutter brains and way of thinking instead of young imagination, dreams and individuality? How then as a country we are going to make progress if we are going to the things same way our earlier generation did. And someone forcing us to do things their way just for the sake of grades must have crushed her heart. Forget thinking outside the box, you are not even allowed to think?

    I had a similar experience when I was in fifth grade art class. We were supposed to draw a vase. Everyone drew the typival long one where as I trying to be creative and imaginative drew a round small one with just one sprig of tiny flowers. I thought it was very creative and looked cute more like japanese ikebana. Imagine my surprise when the teacher laughed at it and made fun of me in front of the whole class and so the kids started laughing too. Fighting back my tears I tried to hold my own and said thats what I would like to submit. She said thats fine but I would get a zero and if I wanted a good grade I had 20 min to do something about it. I could not afford a zero. She tore my picture in front of the whole class and threw in the trash and asked me not to use my brains when it comes to art. This incident stayed with me all along.

    Imagine my surprise and delight when I saw similar vase in crate and barrel with just one sprig displayed all over their store and people going ga ga over it.

    I smiled and said to myself thats mine and I am glad you like it. Thank you God.


    Vivekanand mhanun gelet ki aplya angaatlya gunaanchi kadar vhyayla aplya ajoobajoola pan tashich gooni manasa lagtat nahitar kolsa kai ani hira kai sab ghode baaraa takke.

  14. I've always said that we're all disabled in some way or the other...some mentally, some physially and most -emotionally.

    Even the word 'sensitive' is used these days to mean 'touchy'....and not innately sympathetic or understanding.

    Nice always!

  15. Suranga it is so easy for a teacher to destroy creativity and enthusiasm. A wise story.

    I have posted the final episode of 'Paternity' the story of Pip on Journeys in Creative Writing. I would love to know what you think ...
    June in Oz

  16. lovely post...its really sad that most of us fail to understand that happiness is a state of mind and has almost nothing to do about whether one lives in a highrise or in an orpahanage....