Nilambara Banerjee‘s anthology of shortstories.

A little girl was sitting with her mother on the terrace under a starry sky which looked like the blue velvet lining of her mother’s jewellery box on which were scattered numerous starry shiny trinkets.

The girl looked at the sky with awe-filled eyes. She pointed to the shiniest star and asked her mother as to why was that star the shiniest of all and what was it called. Her mother smiled and replied:

“Ota Dhruva Tara.”(that is the Dhruva Tara or the Pole Star)

“But what makes it the shiniest of all stars?” asked the little one.

Mother said, “ When teachers and wise women and men leave this world, their light of knowledge rises up into the heaven and adds to the brightness of the Dhruva Tara and thus it always remains the brightest of all stars. Then she went on to tell her daughter as to how when sailors could not find their way in the seas they relied upon the Dhruva Tara to find their way. Dhruva she told her daughter in Sanskrit meant that which does not waver or move. Therefore it always helped the lost sailors to locate true north.

Pop came the question :

“Does Dhruva Tara show us the right way Mum?”

Mum chuckled and said:

There is no ‘The Right Way’ darling. The Dhruva Tara did not tell the Sailors to come to the North or that North is right place to go to. It merely helped them to locate themselves so that they could then decide as to which way they must go. Locating true north does not mean showing the right way it means to merely show…The Dhruva Tara merely shows, what you see and find is up to you.

Moons later the girl could appreciate the beauty of the little tale her mother had told her when she learnt that the word “teach” has its origin in the Old English word tǣcan which means to show. She then realised how so many Dhruva Taras had constantly helped her steer through troubled waters and find herself. They showed her not the way but the way to find her way. What a mere thing to do! Ain’t it?

An answer to all those who have made educational institutions into bottling factories.

There was once a Somebody who found work in a bottling factory and thus got stuck in a rut. She tried to make the bottles different but they wouldn’t let her do so. So she tried her hand at filling each of the bottles with the different flavours of life, but again they wouldn’t let her make a dime’s difference anywhere. The bottling factory had a contrivance to crush vive la difference.

What troubled Somebody the most was that they put a crown on each bottle before they left and the bright shiny bottles that left with crowns on their heads came back within a few days wilted and sans crown. The bottles looked miserable and wretched least to say they were empty. The factory had taught the bottles to wear crowns and strut out in pride, what it chose not to teach to the bottles was that, all it could take was a puff, and they could lose their crown. Unable to see the misery of her dear darling bottles, Somebody devised a new way. She made marbles for each bottle which looked identical yet each was subtly nuanced to make it distinct from other marbles. She asked the bottles to choose their own marbles and told them that crowns were easier to lose than marbles and also that each one of them that right to be different, she explained to them that each of these marbles would make each bottle different. The bottles were also told by Somebody that they would never be completely empty now for they would have their marbles. She also told them that each of them had the right to hold their distinctness dear to them, therefore they must not yield easily and spit out their marble of difference. Protection and appreciation of difference is what is of utmost importance. Somebody then with a sleight of hand crafted a few changes so that the bottles would never lose their marble of difference.

The bottles did not have crowns now but they did not lose their marbles either. THEY WERE DIFFERENT AND NEVER EMPTY.

For all those mothers who look after babies they have not borne, who work in crèches as governesses, nannies or as Aaya Didis as we call them in India…They are the first teachers of babies they have not given birth to…Most of them leave their children to be with the children of others…We often forget that they too are working mothers.

The lamp was waiting with bated breath in the inner sanctum of the temple ever since they had prepared her lap with oil. She was overjoyed as she cradled the head of the little fragile baby wick, when they placed the baby wick in her lap. When they kindled the wick for the first time, the wick spattered and cried, the lamp laughed and cried with her, then she calmed her down, absorbing all the heat and letting her burn out the darkness. The lamp loved the wick although she had not borne her. She laughed at her tantrums, cried with her when she would be on the verge of running out of oil. These were the times which were the hardest when there was little oil left, but the lamp always told, the wick her daughter whom she had not borne:

“Keep the fire burning my darling…keep the fire burning. There’s still a lot of darkness to be defeated…keep the hope alive my daughter…help shall soon came”

The Wick often asked the Lamp, as to why she loved her so much. The lamp smiled and answered:

“My darling, I was made so that I can cradle you in my lap and what I love is that my daughter burns to keep the flame of hope alive in the darkest of nights.

Then one stormy night, a gust of wind knocked the lamp from its stand and it shattered to pieces…the wick cried and cried until it became unconscious. When light broke early next morning…when they kindled her senses…she saw that she was in the lap of her lamp…but she was all new now…there was no soot on her…the wick laughed and cried, she said:

“ I thought you broke last night in the storm…I thought I’ll never see you again . But you returned.”

The lamp, chuckled and said:

“As long as you promise to burn, I shall always return to be there to cradle you and hold the oil for you…and how can I leave you my darling I live to see that beautiful flame of yours.

One broken lamp is replaced with another so that the light never goes out in someone’s house.

For all the teachers who have not got the opportunity to become so called teachers in so called educational institutions yet they are teachers who keep teaching in varied ways.

A few days ago a withered kite landed on the terrace. It had soared high from some nook with wishes and longings both big and small within its two slender twiggy ribs. All of a sudden it came crashing down onto the terrace of a Somebody with all its hopes crushed and exhausted.

Bruised, the kite cursed its fate and also those who had reeled it in an out causing it to plummet to the abyss of hopelessness. Spent and worn out it cried its heart out. The poor one must have mustered all its strength to fly again but alas! it could not raise its head up. Hearing its sobs Somebody went to the terrace. She caressed it. At first she consoled and indulged it and then spelled out to it a magical spell:

“None can fly high fastened to a tether…don’t you hear freedom beating caged within your ribs…Why do you seek it in the skies?”

She then released the kite from its tether and went on to collect the Kite’s sighs, its pain, its distress and filled them into a thousand and one balloons.

The balloons caught hold of the withered and wilted kite and soared high into the skies. 

High up in the skies did the kite realise that freedom is born out of pain as is hope. The withered and wilted kite lived again, soared high again surrounded by one thousand and one hopes lived amidst one thousand and one hopes.

Teaching literature is impossible therefore Nilambara spent the better part of her life at St.Xavier’s College, Ranchi marinating young minds so that they soak up every bit of life and not become a part of a speed-reading culture. Her area of research is Myths, legends and folklore in Drama. She finds pleasure engaging in mythopoeia, through which she believes, she can inculcate in her readers an inclusive perspective and a healthier slant on life and the times.

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