So far, by God's grace

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I am teaching a unit on poetry to my 2nd graders. We've been reading some children's poetry so far and today, we were to start writing our own poems. I thought I'd encourage my students by showing them my own poetry book from when I was their age. So I brought my first
ever poem book in to class.
This is the first page in my poem "diri" (diary). I was 7 when I started writing poetry. My cousin Emme who is 3 years older, had come down for her holidays and I wanted to do EVERYTHING she did. If her favorite hymn was 'Abide with Me' it was mine too. If she marched around her grandparents home shouting "I am the heir to this house" then I did too! "I am the air to this house!" . So naturally, when she had a little book of poems, I wanted one too. So I got an old diary from my father and made it my poem book diri. If you're wondering what a 7 year old was doing with a pharmaceutical company's diary, let me remind you - both my parents are doctors. (sad life)

This was the first poem I ever wrote. I wrote this because Emme had a poem about their dog Brownie in the book. We didn't own a dog, but I knew my grandparents did own one before I was born! I asked my Mother how Lassie had died. She said it was rabies. I didn't know what that meant, anyway, it didn't sound exciting, so I decided that in my poem Lassie had died of poison. Much more dramatic, don't you think? The last two lines of the poem are a literal translation of the Malayalam/Tamil phrase "paavam paavam" . There is no equivalent for that word in English. Those two words convey sympathy. Another meaning of the word 'paavam' is 'poor'. My Mother convinced me that 'How sad, how sad!" would be a more fitting last line than "How poor how poor!"

This poem was written a year later, while I was at my other grandparents house in Kerala. They live very close to a river and everyday, my parents would take me and my cousin there for a swim. I learned my swimming there. (Or at least I thought that was swimming until a more experienced friend saw me "swimming" and called it doggy paddling!) Anyway, this poem was written from my heart. It was, in retrospect, a "spontaneous overflow of emotions recollected in (the) tranquility" of my Appacha's old easy chair. I wrote it, felt quiote proud of my achievement and then when I went back to school, submitted it for our school's "Wall Magazine". I thought, if it gets published there, then I would send it to 'Young World' - a children's supplement in the newspaper.

It was rejected. Outright! The teacher in charge refused to believe that an eight year old could write this. She scolded me for passing off something written with parents help as my own work. I was crushed. I didn't write poems for a couple of years after that. And even when I did, it was for myself and my parents to see only!

hmmm.... that was a long time ago. Ive regained my ability to write and take rejection since then.
But one thing I know is that I will never, and I say a strong word like 'never' with confidence that I will never do what was done to me to any of my students.


  1. Your talent for writing is so obvious even from your childhood. I can understand why your teacher thought the poem was written by an adult. But what a terrible thing for her to do...... I feel a little sick to think of your pain at that young age..... Stories like this are why we keep thinking of home schooling. God bless Deepa and may this talent for writing grow and be a blessing for you and many others.

  2. Home schooling is a brilliant idea! I don't have the guts or the discipline to try it our. but you could. I have blog friends who homeschool. If you finally do decide to take the plunge, I could give you their contacts.

  3. I think that is really neat that you have kept these poems, cool to share with your class and daughter when she gets a little older.

  4. deeps, at this age, i was conducting experiments at home from "The Usborne Big Book of Experiments" which i still have - testing for alkali, acid, conducting sound and light experiments and checking out science books about light, water, etc from the school library and reading about the human body...we are complete opposites lol...and no, im not a geek. a good friend of mine said "normal people read novels, etc to relax, but Ansu reads medical textbooks" lol...i remember being fascinated by a human body book when i was just 3!

  5. Deepa you are very talented.. you keep readers like me hooked on to your blog with your beautiful way of writing!!

    I appreciate that you didnt let your disappointment keep you from writing that too at such a tender age..kudos.. you rock!!

  6. @ Lis: I hope she likes poetry too! She seems to enjoy Dr.Seuss, so I'm assuming she likes rhymes!

    @Ansu: You, my dear girl should have been a doctor!! And yes, we are opposites, aren't we!

    @Bindhu: Thanks! You are quite talented too. Didn't you play lady Macbeth at school? I remember going home and asking Amma to but me a comic version of Macbeth after that.

  7. Teacher's make or mar lives!!!!!!
    here is what one teacher said to me:
    " you will never make it in life."
    Another one: " you go to the back, Susan come here in front."
    Another one ( auditioning for a school play): Your hair is too curly."
    Which do you think hurt me the most? Surprisingly the hair! I live to this day with the ugly-curly-hair-complex!

  8. It's nice that you kept your old diary for so long. I too had a diary and I kept it safe for a long long time till alas, one day I decided to get rid of all the memorabilia.

  9. hahaha.. Died of Poison????? Awesome line....!!!!

  10. @Mannaunty: Aiyo paavam. I think your hair looks lovely. Just grow it longer.

    @Mattiz: I have had to get rid of a few diaries too - esp the ones when I was a teenager. But This particular one is a treasure!

    @Mac: LOL. I've always liked a bit of drama in my life.

  11. Hey Deepa do you remember that one..well I was lucky to be a part of a few shakespeare plays,and I particularly liked this one...and i too owned a comic version!!

  12. deeps!!! i know i shouldve been a doctor! i dont know what happened after 12th dont remind me about sad...but hey maybe i could invent a drug or something, biotech isnt too bad either...and i miss going to the river!! its so rubbish right now, its always flooded, dirty, and deeper from people (Balu is one of them lol) who are digging mud for houses.
    @Makettles, i dont know you, but i have curly hair too, and people have said such mean things to me, but you just need to know how to manage it, like grow it out longer and dont brush out the curls or it will become poofy! and if they still say bad stuff, just ignore lol.

  13. Deepa, I still hurt when I remember how hurt you were with the teacher's comments!! Well. you were able to forgive and love the teacher later. I suppose mothers hurt more when their little ones are hurt.

    1. Amma, You and Appa gave me enough and more encouragement all through life. That's what made it all better!