I wrote about JS' hair becoming dreadlocked, and about Adam cutting off some of his long hair, last year at this time. What follows is a sequel, predictably involving hair adventures of our offspring. Sometime after the new year started, Adam announced one day that he has to shave his head right down to the scalp. Among the strangest traditions of this pardesh, is the ritual and, sometimes public, depilation practiced in schools and workplaces. Usually, these “raze to the scalp” ceremonies are related to raising money for charity and other purposes (bettering school facilities, etc.). Offering shock value, this ceremony makes people shell out cash while watching. A celebrity or a person in some sort of authority, like a principal, a manager, or a teacher often volunteers to have his or her head shaved amid the cheering crowd  which donates  money. Bizarre, but it seems pretty common a  tradition. Our newspaper, the Toronto Star, ran a story of a beautiful young woman with gorgeous hair being ritually shaved while raising money.

In Adam's school, there is a weird variation of this story. Apparently, you have two cans, one labeled “SAVE” and the other “SHAVE”. A volunteer holds these cans and people put money into these cans and the sucker has to fulfill the command on the can that fills first. Adam's “SHAVE” can filled and he had to part with his hair. He was spared the public display of the process and allowed to have a shave in a  place of his choice. Being a conservative and  traditional person (ha ha ha), I suggested the hair dresser's place. But he was toying with other ideas.

One Saturday in February, late at night, dangerously close to my bedtime, Adam asked me if I would shave his hair using the shaving kit we had bought in JS' Mohawk days (do you remember the Mohawk hair style?). I was exhausted and could not bring myself to do it so, JS offered to give it a try. There has always been an active sibling rivalry between the two and I was a bit concerned about JS cutting his big brother's hair. But, I needn't have worried. At the beginning, there were many screams as JS tried to raze the thick, long mane with the electric implement. It was impossible so he used a pair of scissors to cut bunches of hair close to the scalp and then use the implement to shave the scalp clean. Tim stayed up to immortalize different stages of the process. I was pretty impressed when I saw the results the following morning. Needless to say, there was a massive cleaning up to do in the morning, but at least the shaving was done.
  Adam, the next morning, shaved  

The undreading

This is a sequel to the dreadlocks story. I mentioned in the New year's letter that JS had been talking about undreading his hair after the “HAIR” performance was over (which, by the way, was absolutely wonderful). I was waiting for this event because I had felt that the dreads were a pain to wash and keep clean. As I wrote in the  New year's letter, someone actually sells undreading stuff online.  JS convinced Tim to order the undreading kit.  Check their site to see the catchy labels on the bottles. [Unfortunately, the process was less photogenic (and took longer) than Adam's hair-razing, so there are no pictures to really document this process.] JS


It was all a big dhoka,  the undreading stuff didn't really work. It loosened the dreads a bit, but the knots remained. I then pleaded  with JS to snip each lock at the root, an inch from the scalp. Both the boys have great hair which grows like weeds and I was sure that he will have long hair by the end of summer. But he wouldn't hear of it. Thus began the  process of undreading by hand,  involving slow painful combing of each dread, removing knots, and cutting off bits of hair that had anastomosed into ropes. So, two months or more, JS is still slowly but surely undreading his hair, one dread at a time. I do admire his patience and it is the theme of my next story.

Scary Spring

I am always struck by how long it takes for the winter to end and for it to get warm enough to work in the garden without having to wear mittens! Each year, spring seems to be more and more delayed. And, predictably, although people find the early spring to be too cold, the weeds certainly don't seem to have a problem. Unchecked at the onset of warmish temperatures, the weeds get going like wild fire in our garden. Among the most noxious of weeds is the dandelion, a yellow flowered  ubiquitous invader of every gap in the lawn, every crack in the driveway etc.  It depresses me to watch how inexorably dandelions seem to thrive,  reproduce,  and spread their miniature parachute like seeds.  Aaaaargh!!

I got down to business last week and swore to eradicate each and every plant of this weed from our front lawn. So, I started weeding, boring down with my uprooting implement and removing each dandelion plant complete with its long root. After about a hundred plants, my resolve was broken and I hatched a plan. Since JS was trying to make some pocket money, I thought of asking him to do this job. Where I erred was in calculating just how many plants there were in the front yard. Quite recklessly, I offered $1 for four plants pulled with their roots. I thought that the lad will make around $50 off of me.

I was actually surprised that JS accepted this offer and set to work. When I returned from my class one day, JS had several piles of twenty five plants each,  neatly arranged  on the porch. To make a long story short, he pulled eight hundred plants in three evenings!!!!  Aaaaargh again, that would be a cool $200 in the imp's pocket. I won't go back on my word. I will pay but next time I will offer $1 per ten plants. JS feels rather pleased with himself and has been talking about how happy he feels when he sees this yellow flowered weed  covering many a  lawn and  growing unchecked in other places. In his mind, he makes a quick calculation that if only everyone paid him as handsomely as his mom, he would be a millionaire before  he turns twenty.

So, not to make a long story longer, I wanted to take pictures of my toiling son, pulling dandelions but we had lost our digital camera and so scenes fled while we tried to find a camera. Meanwhile, the lad had arranged the last batch of the weeds in piles on the porch and I HAD to take pictures. So, Tim blew $373 for a digital camera and some other fittings. I was wringing my hands waiting for the new camera as the dandelions, though dead, had fast-forwarded their ontogeny with the flowers turning to seeds which were threatening to take flight and land on our front lawn! There were some very tense moments before the camera was bought,  the weed piles photographed, and put into the trash. Phew!! 

And so we enter this growing season, with a huge deficit for some and cash in pocket for others. I will sow  the usual stuff in the front; sunflowers, morning glories and cleome, my absolute favorites. And, my perennials, columbines, heliopsis, black-eyed susans, and purple cone flowers are already ye high. If all goes well, we should have a good garden in the front.  But I will do all the work  myself, having blown my “labor”  budget so carelessly.

May 6, 2006

JS' dandelions


Fabulous Fall

The domestic travails continue and it is fall already! Summer just whizzed by what with working in July and August. Finding work in both summer months is rare and I welcomed the chance to work because ever since I got bumped, there had been little work until July.  And the work continued into September, when the schools reopened...... and well into the fall, right until December 21st !!!!!! So, if you remember my uncertainty in “peripatetic career” piece from last year, whoa, 2006 certainly proved a deviant year in all the six years of my ESL teaching. Yes,  the work situation was still one of the  itinerant purveyor of English stuff (the angrezi bandi-walli) but there was one solid employer (the ESL program at the university of Toronto) who gave me lots of work. I am not sure if this is a happy ending to a long sordid work history, but I certainly hope to stop traveling all over Toronto to make a living.

End of 2006

So, work, work, what turns me on? There is, first of all, my speciality; test preparation. I have put in a lot of work in this area and so, I really like preparing people for proficiency tests. Then of course there's money. Because of these two reasons, the classes at U of T have been good. However, for many reasons, the “soul” of ESL teaching is in the publicly funded classes run by the public and catholic boards of education. Because these classes are free, they attract a more “natural” mix of students as far as age, languages spoken, place of origin etc. are concerned. Take for instance my last ESL class, the one I taught as a supply teacher for a term (September to November) and then gave up. This class had people from Somalia, Portugal, Russia, Ukraine, Albania, Hungary, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Japan, etc. So, in class, there were sounds of  languages from all these countries. In age, the students ranged from 18 to 77. I hadn't ever seen a situation like this before and it was an amazing experience.   I am sure that in a class like this, one can do big things like evaluating theories of language acquisition. I kept an eye out for “the big things” but was all too involved in the day to day things. I couldn't stop wondering why the 70+  year-olds would bother with ESL. After all, they were living with their offspring and were well provided for. But, they came to most classes and worked very diligently.

The sad part was that I decided to give up this job after three months. Although there were a plethora of reasons, one question I had to wrestle with was whether I was capable of making a class like this succeed in meaningful ways. That is, could I actually make these people improve their ESL skills? I wasn't really sure because this area (general ESL) isn't my speciality. One thing was certain; I would have to work a lot harder to make it work and I wasn't prepared to take on this responsibility. I already have an area which I am committed to and I wasn't going to take on one more. So, I had to bid goodbye to all the people whose company I had enjoyed for three months.  It was pretty awful.

Reconnecting with siblings

Sometime in the fall, Azeem, one of my younger brothers, finally got on the e-mail and joined the rest of us siblings in our e-discussions. We start a topic and discuss it, air out our opinions, offer solutions to problems, prognosticate, and theorize hopelessly. Before Azeem joined the team, we discussed such mind boggling questions like “Is a mop better at cleaning the floor than a cloth?”. Many opinions and angles were offered, dissected, and analyzed, and we (at least I) came to the fairly obvious conclusion that one is not superior to the other. The most important thing is that the thing with which we wash the floor (be it a mop or a cloth) be cleaner than the floor which is being washed. Having solved that pesky issue, we went on to talk about procrastination, why each of us have had this propensity to procrastinate ruin our lives. This matter went on a bit and we reached a consensus that none of us puts interesting things off. It's just the more grandiose things like starting a good habit (morning walks, becoming a vegetarian, eating a lot of fiber, etc.) that are put off. Having solved that problem and a couple more that I don't remember, we moved on to atheism.

It's amazing how little I know my own siblings. Well, this is not a big surprise since I left home 30 years ago and our communications have been mostly touch and go at best. Anyway, it turns out that most of us are atheists or agnostic. This discussion brought to the fore something I have always known but not made a big deal of. It is the attitude that some of the women (now dead)  in our khandaan  had towards religion. Both my grandmothers, and my great grandmother on my mom's side were not religious. In fact, it was well known and accepted that these women did not pray. Since the more religious ones in every household would pray at least once a week, the non-praying ones stood out. But no fuss was made about these women's non-observance. I have always been intrigued about this and have my own theory about it. Basically, atheism, non-acceptance of god, religion, etc. most likely exist in all societies and families. However, mostly speaking, only when we reach a certain level of comfort can we speak about this issue openly. As I said, we discussed this issue in the e-mails. All of us are adults, educated, articulate, confident, and have no fear of reprisals. So, we can be candid about our beliefs or lack thereof. What about women who don't have all these things? I would argue that they were probably atheists or agnostics but kept a low profile.

Other stuff

text and images on this site copyright © 2006 M. Shaik, T. A. Dickinson, A. K. Dickinson, and (or) J. S. Dickinson
posted by tim dot dickinson at utoronto dot ca on 31-Dec-2006