The Palace of Illusions: A Must Read

I guess, from the time I started reading, it was mostly the works of international authors for me. Venturing into reading something written by an Indian author was a far-fetched idea. That does not mean I did not read books by Indian authors, I did, but nothing really touched me, so to say.

Being a book lover, I keep looking up stuff on the Internet about, what else, books and anything related to it. That could include anything from cute bookmarks to book shelves. So, while reading one of these “booky” posts somewhere, I came across this book titled “The Palace of Illusions” and how it should be on everyone’s “Books to Read Before You Die” list. OK then, there it goes on my “to-read” list on Goodreads, lest I forget about it.

So, one fine day, while walking down the aisles of this book store, aptly titled “The Title Waves,” I saw this book and of course, I had to have it. And like any book lover, that book remained unopened for a very long time. Come on, I had other books to read and so little time.

But then, finally, this October, opportunity knocked and I took out “The Palace of Illusions” from my cupboard. And, once I opened it, I could do nothing but only keep turning the pages. I was riveted, to say the least.


As a child, I remember being hooked on to the great epic, The Mahabharata, which came on TV every Sunday. This was ages ago; believe me, when I say, times have changed! But why am I speaking of The Mahabharata? That’s because “The Palace of Illusions” is about it but, and here is the catch, it is from the perspective of a woman, Panchaali, or Draupadi, as most of us know her.

If you have ever seen or read or were told about The Mahabharata, the only reference to Draupadi was the one married to the five Pandavas, and who was lost in a bet and how Dushasan kept unwrapping her saree until he was tired but the saree did not unwrap completely. That’s it; at least, I only knew so much about Draupadi before I got my hands on this amazing book. Draupadi is so much more than just a female lead in The Mahabharata.

The author, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, has done a wonderful job of portraying Draupadi as the fearless one, she can face it all. From being born out of a fire and being an equal to her brother to dealing with her husbands to falling in love, she is such a rebel. A much-needed example of a brave, intelligent, and brilliant woman.

The Palace of Illusions is a must-read for everyone irrespective of gender or religion or anything else.

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Being a Teacher – The Passion

We experience joy in several ways. The joy of cradling a baby, the joy of being in the arms of a loved one, the joy of Christmas, and so many others. Then there is the joy that you experience when you teach.

They say teaching is a noble profession and rightly so. Being a teacher, I believe, has brought out the best in me. Right from the moment they call you teacher or miss or ma’am to them coming running to you to show you their results and help you carry your teaching aids.

However, what really pulls me to teach is the knowledge that I, as a teacher, have a huge responsibility of carving the future citizens of my country and, thereby, ultimately working for the greater good of the society and the nation as a whole. And, I believe, it must begin at school, this moulding of productive and contributing citizens of a nation.

As a school-going girl myself, I was extremely fond of teaching. Oh I had my own blackboard on which I wrote stuff and acted like I was teaching a class. I remember teaching everything from English Grammar to Geography to Mathematics to Science.

Later, however, as years went by, this passion of mine remained obscured and I didn’t bother looking for it. I got busy with life. Even after I received my Bachelors and Masters degrees in Education, I didn’t give teaching any modicum of thought.

It was only as I neared the end of my Ph.D. (Education) that I consciously started looking for that lost passion – teaching. Possibly, it was the years and years of studying and understanding the education system that made me realise that teaching, indeed, was my true calling. One can make a difference and impact lives in many ways, I want to do it by being a teacher.

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Ph.D.: Not Just a Degree, It’s a (Torturous) Way of Life – Part 6

The crux of my posts in this Ph.D. series should be my actual research work and not my complaints. 😀 So, let me throw light on what I actually did. I’ll try to keep it as simple as I can; however, do note that I am still awaiting viva and so, I don’t have the degree yet.

Right, so, I am registered as a Ph.D. student in the discipline of Education under the faculty of Arts. For my research study, the guide and I, after much deliberations and very strongly considering my instructional design background, decided to do some much required work in Educational Technology. Well, Ed Tech!

To give you a little peek into some of the reasons we decided on Ed Tech were:

  1. Our own experiences in the Education field and the so to say hesitancy among teachers to use technology in their classroom interactions.
  2. Online, or e-, learning was relatively new or unheard of in the Education sector, at least in my city and state.

So, after going through literature and a lot of brainstorming, we finally chose to come up with a MOOC to teach Ed Tech and its applications to aspiring teachers. My study used the Mixed Methods approach, in which I used the experimental design embedded with phenomenology. My sample, as I have mentioned earlier, were trainee teachers in the first year of their teacher training programme. My study was limited to Greater Mumbai and Navi (Marathi for new) Mumbai regions in the state of Maharashtra, India.

My MOOC, I’d like to point out, was extremely basic. It had ten modules covering stuff from the concept of Ed Tech to the use of social media for imparting instructions to blended learning. The content was simple in language and structure, and was supported with media where necessary. The primary aim was for the trainee teachers to gain knowledge and understanding of the various facets of Ed Tech and apply these to their classroom instructions once they became full-fledged teachers.

A lot of effort went into this entire process, right from thinking of an apt research topic to conceptualising, developing, and implementing the MOOC to interviewing the trainee teachers about their experiences. There were times when I wanted to give up and believe me, there were several such moments but, I guess, the fact that so much went into this study and some great pals (like I mentioned in my earlier post) pushed me to complete my study and submit my thesis.

Oh well, the viva is still to happen, so waiting and hoping to write the next post as Dr. Sandy Chris I. 🙂

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Ph.D.: Not Just a Degree, It’s a (Torturous) Way of Life – Part 5

So, I really could not afford to change my place of research and continued to persevere in terms of completing my research work while at the same time doing those “extra-curricular” stuff. In spite of all the cribbing that I have been doing, I must say that I hardly ever took my research work home. Almost all of it was completed at my chosen place of research.

The other, and slightly more important, outcome of visiting this place regularly was building some solid friendships. Look at what all we did: complained consistently, laughed maniacally, and wiped each other’s tears while still carrying on. Makes the journey worthwhile, I suppose.

Speaking of journey, I think, it’s time I write about my actual research work ’cause hello, why would I be here otherwise?

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Still the Same – Epilogue

Sitting in her room, just before bedtime, she thought about the little girl she had met at the end of her paper presentation. The girl, sitting with her mother in the front row of the auditorium, had smiled up at her. A knowing smile. She couldn’t put her finger on it.

All was forgotten till when she was on her way out of the auditorium when the girl appeared out of nowhere and tucked at her shirt. And before she had a chance to say anything, that pigtailed girl declared in her soft voice, “You’re my hero now. I want to be just like you!”

What had the little girl seen or heard, she didn’t know but she closed her eyes and thanked her ever faithful friend, God. And this time, she didn’t cry. She slept peacefully.

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Still the Same – Faith: That’s All You Need

Hopeful is how she described herself now. She even has a tattoo representing hope. Whoa! For someone who couldn’t fathom getting inked, that was a big step.

She had indeed come a long way. A little girl, who thought that she didn’t want anything to do with life to a strong, independent woman, who has no complaints from life. But she was still the same . . .

But there was still something that she quite didn’t understand even now. What was it that helped her hold on to her faith? Was it God? But how did He do it? She realized she had never once met that old, smiling man with white flowing hair and beard. Then why did she feel His presence strongly in every moment of her life?

In her private moments she had spoken to Him and she believed that he was listening to her. Through her darkest moments, she always relied on Him and she had believed that He would never fail her.

When she fell for those boys and every time that she failed in love, she had clung on to Him and she believed that He had held her. And when she found herself, she believed He had worked through her and she believed in Him. It was, as she pondered over these situations from her life, that she realized that it was faith that had brought her all this way. Faith in that God who had never left her even once.

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Still the Same – Lesson: Loving Yourself is Important!

Yes. That is what was missing for so long. She had forgotten to love herself. She had forgotten to live her life. It had always been about others. It was time to find herself.

What were the things that she loved? Yes, reading. She loved books. Their smell. It all came back to her. Those wonderful memories. The places those books had taken her to. She needed to start reading again. How had she ever stopped doing that anyway? What had gotten into her? So she started reading again and living the fairy tales the books had to offer. And she loved and lived every moment. She even encouraged others around her to live their fairy tales through books, through stories. And they thanked her for that and she basked in happiness.

Another passion, which she only did as part of her work now – writing. Now didn’t she miss doing that? Writing made her thoughts flow; it kept her brain ticking, working. She got back to writing. Her thoughts were given shape. Wow! How she had missed this!

Now she was doing what she liked doing. And she began to fall in love. With herself. Something was still amiss, however. Thinking back to her childhood, digging through old memories, she remembered how she loved looking at pictures of places – the vast seas; the tall, ice-clad mountains; the deep, green valleys; the exotic animals. She had always wanted to go to those places. She recalled the many times she looked at pictures of places she could only visit in her dreams. But she could turn into reality now, couldn’t she? She would travel alone, if required. Be an explorer.

These were her passions. But why had she never thought of loving herself from the beginning? What had stopped her? The answer came to her just as she asked that question to herself. Body-image! What had they said? She was fat! She was dark! She was ugly! But did she think that she was all that? She stared at her image in the mirror. Nothing seemed to be missing. She was perfect in every way just like the others. She didn’t even have a bodily deformity. Then what was the problem? The problem, she realized, was how people looked at her. It was their perspective. They had their norms and standards set for physical appearance, skin color, and beauty. She then knew that she didn’t fit, she didn’t want to fit; she was born to stand out. She was beautiful in her own way. All she had to do was believe and she believed, indeed.

* * *

Love begins with you. Because if you do not love yourself, you are incapable of loving another. And only when she began loving herself did she realize that love was indeed a beautiful feeling. Love made her grateful for the life she had. Where once she wanted to live no longer, she now wanted to live life to the fullest. She didn’t despair any more, she continued to hope.

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