A journey through time

“Under the darkening blanket of the evening sky,

And borrowing light from the vehicles passing by,

I spotted a cluster of trees

Bearing fruits of a strange appearance

But wait; upon closer look I saw that they weren’t fruits

But hundreds and hundreds of egrets

Tired from feeding in the fields

Sitting still as the skies

Interrupted only by a sudden squawk of a startled member

At the horn of a mad lorry down under”

“How is it possible to feel nostalgia for a world I never knew?” asks a stunned ‘Che Guevera’ while wandering through the ruins of Machu Pichu in Latin America in the movie- The Motorcycle diaries. I asked the same question to myself once when I visited the Big temple or Brihadeeshwar kovil of Thanjavur, which I had never seen before. I ask that question once again today-“how can I possibly feel nostalgic about my parents’ childhood?”

From the innumerable travels I have made through the roads and rails of Kerala, I fondly recall the recent trip I made to my home in Cochin from Chennai. Having got no tatkal tickets, I decided to board the Kovai express from Chennai early in the morning. Though worried that I might have to risk standing all through the journey, I still decided to hope for the best and go ahead with the decision. I’ve always loved to travel by trains. I like to travel especially in non-ac compartments where I can open the windows and watch nature roll by like a movie. A sequence of beautiful frames running at length to keep you entertained and enchanted all along. One could come across places of such beauty that there where times when I had been tempted to pull the chain and get down of the train. Paddy fields, women working in the fields, cows and calves, small hills and rivers all made an appearance. Since I normally take the night trains from Chennai to Cochin, I had never really seen the stretch from Chennai, after Jolarpettai till Coimbatore.

During my college days, I used to go home very often. And the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border was a much awaited event. Politics, business, trade, families, societies- borders signified different things for different people. But for me, it only meant a canvas where two beautiful landscapes merged. The transition was done easily. If you missed the small bridge, it was all over in the blink of an eye. And now for the first time, I was travelling all the way from Chennai to Coimbatore, taking in all the splendid sights. And let me make an honest admission here. Malayalis world over might complain about the stagnant growth they face on the career front in Kerala and then flee in search of better opportunities elsewhere. But no matter how far they flee, there is but one thing they will talk about proudly, and that is the unpretentious display of fecund fertility of its soils. The greenery of Kerala is well-known. And we generally have a tendency to look down upon the other states in an air of arrogant comparison. And yet, as I looked out for the first time to look at the hills of Yelagiri blowing gentle wisps of clouds above them, and the agricultural produces that were being nurtured in the wombs of these interior landscapes, I couldn’t but feel ashamed of myself to have been ignorant about the fertility that the soils in my neighbouring land possessed. Where nature forgot to bestow, man sowed. And reap he did, rich praises from an ardent lover of nature who would rather see many shades of green and blue than grey. But the most impressive place that I saw was a few kilometers after Tirupur station. A temple surrounded by a natural pond with little kids bobbing up and down and rolling around in its waters, in the midst of a rich green field instantly made my heart jump up. The chain, uh..oh.. if I could just pull that chain….

But the journey had to continue, and I got down in Coimbatore, half relieved to have reached my destination and half sad to have my journey end so. From Coimbatore, I walked into a small hotel near by that was crowded with all the people from my train. Anticipating the bus journey ahead of me, I decided to take something that would go down well on my stomach and ordered curd rice. As a kid, I used to detest traveling by buses. The bumpy roads and in the case of hill stations, the hairpin bends used to churn my stomach and make me feel sick. And then when I went to college and was forced to take up bus journeys, I started to work up a stamina for bus rides. It later turned into a strange kind of love for the ride down the country roads. The worn down KSRTC buses with a ‘K’erala (not ‘K’arnataka), suddenly seemed like a good deal to view the country side. I thoroughly enjoyed the many journeys I undertook in and out of Kerala. Little did I realize that that love was to live forever and grow more with time.

From Coimbatore, I went to Gandhipuram bus stand and took the next bus to Cochin. The sky was marvelous with white fluffy clouds and the sun throwing its divine rays from behind it. The whole scene was ethereal. And as I entered the fertile soils of my homeland, I couldn’t but help think about the many smells that were now fast entering my nostrils. It strangely reminded me about my father and about his childhood.

And that’s when i asked myself- “How can I possibly feel nostalgic now? For his childhood?”

How can I know that the giant trees whose smells became distinctly clear and stronger during the night as they flew above the paddy fields, collecting many more aromas and growing in its intensity, had been responsible for sowing the thoughts that my dad thought and later inspired him to take to writing as a way of putting into words the best way he could, the beautiful thoughts that floated in his head? Perhaps it’s because those very trees whose names I didn’t know, were now continuing to work their inspiration through me, with thoughts that created such sublime emotions that the words I use from my memory is but vain. I don’t know how effective our words are. After all, catching a thought, infusing it with the right emotion and then trying to put it into sentences using the technique of recalling words from one’s memory is but a very inefficient way of communicating. For the beauty of the thought is far more intense and captivating. And it is a blessing, even if it is only for brief seconds, to hold that beauty inside you. And in that moment I also realized, to have been able to hold that beauty, to see it, know it for what it is and feel it the same way my dad had held it in his own heart many years back as he trudged through a lusher and verdant landscape is how, I am now able feel nostalgic about his childhood! That beauty we held in our hearts, inexplicable as it is, is the unseen link, connecting us through the ages. And I think that’s how i am able to know what he felt like in his younger days.

So when a day as yellow and cheery as that calls out after almost a week of weeping from the skies above, you listen to that call and set out to face the sunshine.

If an opportunity to step out doesn’t come knocking at your door, you find an excuse, create a situation, convince/tempt/bribe/threaten a friend and pull her also into your scheme of things.

My excuse was that I had an upset tummy and desperately needed good healthy food that would include lots of vegetables in the form of traditional dishes. The destination was Sanjeevanam. The victim, my friend Bruce is a foodie. You could often spot her hovering around in the kitchen and sniffing about near the windows in each of the rooms in our house, collecting aromas from other, more productive kitchens in our apartment. Once a roommate got the fright of her life when she heard a noise and opened her weary eyes from a deep sleep to find Bruce positioned strategically in front of the fridge at 2 in the morning, rummaging and emptying its contents with lightning speed. She likes and enjoys eating so much that you’d be amazed at how much can go down that body of hers. Which surprisingly aint so massive. I mean for someone who has such a big appetite I’m sure people would expect to see a giant rolly polly rolling down the street. But no, our girl is toned quite well, and pretty! At least in the eyes of this beholder, she is.

And so, tempting her with healthy food didn’t take much convincing. One message was all that was required. The temptress and the victim set out to Sanjeevanam for a healthy lunch. Now this is one place that has an equal share of takers and haters. You won’t find many lovers. There are only takers. For Sanjeevanam revolves around the concept of health food. The ‘Rajabhojanam’ is a 7course meal that starts with four different drinks of milk and almond, beetroot juice, buttermilk and ‘kanji’water (porridge) to balance all of the acidic juices and alkaline properties of your stomach. Once the juices in your stomach starts oozing, you are ready for the first round of raw veggies (their plantain stalk salad and finely chopped raw mango sprinkled with pepper are the major attractions), second round of semi-cooked veggies, third round of fully cooked ‘poriyals’ and ‘koottus’ and then red rice and ghee, and the final round of white rice, sambhar, rasam, ‘mor’ curry and buttermilk. A cup of nice rice payasam is like the crescendo after which you will generally pass out, before the serving boy rushes to your aid and pours in a spoonful of honey into your palm to revive you back into consciousness. Honey aids in digestion, he then educates you with a smile.

After the banana leaf is licked clean and after all the waiters and customers finish gaping at the two mysterious girls who walked in like hurricane and crawled out on all fours exhibiting the worst form of civilized behaviour in front of all that food that was put in front of them, we walked to ‘nuts and spices’ to buy dark chocolate for Bruce’s cousin who was going to make chocolate dessert.

That’s when I got a call from my dear lost friend Gobu, who suddenly had a realization and called in with a whine: “Charooo, I just realized, I don’t have any friends!”

“Er… well um..”

Hearing my confused murmurs she offered- “I mean I have you guys, but the list pretty much ends there….. and its kinda upsetting”

“Well, frankly Gobu, I think its not friends that you don’t really have. It looks more to me like you don’t really have a life in that workplace of yours”, said I, thinking I was giving a piece of reference from some very intelligent observation.

“I want to get out. Its been so long since I saw you all. I want to be in a place full of trees and things… Take me somewhere… pleeease…” Gobu begged.

Krishnamurthy foundation in Greenways road was the chosen place where trees, birds, clean air and silence could be found in plenty. After showing her the library and walking barefoot on the grassy patch, we sat under the ‘peepal’ tree for a chat until the not-so-friendly dwellers under the patch of freshly cut grass started charting their way up into our clothes and to other unmentionables. Gobu then saw a beautiful curvaceous tree and had an urge to climb it. Having lost the practice and patience, we both studied the tree, searching desperately for a foothold. Finally finding no such foothold, I heaved her up and stared at her when plans of pulling me up failed several times over. We then walked around aimlessly, taking in the smells of the earth and the barks and leaves of the trees. Gobu talked about how this place reminded her of her township back home and for brief moments we both thought about all of those childhood times we spent with nature- climbing trees, downing raw mangoes and unripe guavas, skinning our knees and roasting ourselves to a perfect brown in the sun . Japanese novels, like their movies were devoid of drama and masala, said an upset Gobu suddenly, holding a novel in her hand that exposed the bare back of a fair Japanese lady. I was still stuck on that thought about my childhood. Playing with nature changed you forever. There was absolutely no substitute for the experiences it offered. Poor kids. They know not what they are missing out on. And we were responsible for it.

And then we saw it. The perfect mango tree with a heavy trunk and the most welcoming of low lying branches that found us jumping in joy and clambering up it. But once up the tree, somehow it didn’t feel as good as we expected it to. Childhood was lost. And so was the innocence that could give us unbridled joy.

We complained about the mosquitoes who were fast drilling their stingers into our bodies and we climbed down. I narrowly missed squishing a giant snail by a few inches. We giggled and fooled around and walked out wondering what to do next. The answer came in the form of ‘Sandy’s chocolate laboratory’. We weren’t really craving for chocolate. But since we’d already walked in and the place looked real cool, we decided to give it a shot. ‘Chocolate decadence’, which Sandy referred to as a ‘boring’ dessert (He had wanted us to try out the most sinful item on the menu card) was served in a ‘beaker’ along with a thick chocolate cookie and a ‘test tube’ of chocolate sauce. Impressed by the concept of a chocolate laboratory, and chatting up with the man who concocted all of the potions and desserts himself, whom we also discovered was not another ubiquitous ‘malayali’ (in spite of his curly hair and severe mallu Christain looks), we complimented him on his good taste and skills and hopped out into the streets once again, only to find my yellow sunshine gone and replaced my a bright crescent peeking from behind white clouds.

Where to next? In college, we were a gang of four. One got married early and now has a baby. The remaining three of us had been having it good until marriage dates got fixed for another one. Now our trio was down to two. But nevertheless, the three of us planned to meet up for dinner. Our final gathering before she gave up her single title and walked into a life of ‘householdom’. So to pass time until the bride-to-be could join us, we decided to visit the Kapaleeshwar temple and feed the cows there. We hopped onto a train and climbed down after one stop at the Mylapore station and walked into the ‘kovil’ with two ghee lamps and lots of plantains. We hurried on with our prayers, clicked a picture of a cat and her two kittens sleeping blissfully inside a silver palanquin on which we believe the deities ‘commuted’ regularly around the temple grounds, and ran out to the ‘Goshala’ where the temple cows were housed.

We were welcomed by three absolutely adorable new borns, who nudged and rolled out their eyes and stuck out their tongues at the plantains in our hands. The youngest among the three was too small to chew on the plantain skin. So we peeled it, broke a small piece and had to literally feed it and wipe its dribbling drool from our hands. The main ‘Goshala’ had several cows of different breeds. Some devotee who was inside the Goshala and who appeared to be touching the ‘behind’ of one of the cows explained when he saw the horror in our eyes that the ‘Gomata’(‘mother cow’, or is it ‘cow mother’?) resided at the rear end. And that touching a cow’s behind and seeking blessings would do us much good. We didn’t really know whether to believe in his story, but Gobu had already ventured into the shed and pressed her palm against a cowdung caked behind. I chose a cleaner behind and risked getting kicked by what the caretaker called a ‘high class mix breed’ that came with all of the arrogance of being the ‘best quality’.  She stamped her hooves a couple of times and warned us to move away. And we paid heed to her warning and disappeared.

Out in the temple grounds, people sat around in circles and talked. Some were immersed in devotion and chanted prayers. We then played with a cat, got introduced to ‘Mumtaz’- the slipper counter owner’s lovely brown stray dog and got a reading from a parrot that screeched and threatened to peck us when we tried to pat it. We departed by giving the parrot a yellow flower, which it very skillfully plucked and scattered all over the cards and into his little cage.

We walked into Saravana Bhavan, had masala dosa, shared a pineapple juice, chatted for a while, bitched about the bride-to-be who ditched us and departed. For a change I rejected the offers from the auto-drivers and decided to take a bus. It was a good decision. The ride gave me enough time and space to sit and recollect my thoughts and the day’s events. Life was good. Really good! And it was still only just a beginning!

cleanin up

Blogs are like shelves. Clothes shelves to be precise. If you do not promise to yourself to check on it everyday, you are bound to get avalanched in a huge ball of mess every time you open it. So then, the next best thing to do, if you can’t devote time for it everyday would be to simply shut it close. And walk past it, around it, away from it or if you are the type with a heightened level consciousness and all, then kill the thought the moment it arises in your head. I did all of the above. Only, my blog was more accommodating than my shelf. Unlike my shelf, comments did not pile up to fill and overflow from my comments box. Guess that further motivated the two-toed sloth inside me to make it look like a ‘crawl to the end of the world’ every time I decided to take action. And just when the two-toed one thought she could silently slip out of blogdom, came a call from a ‘lionocerous elestrich’. Yea, my dad has the memory of an elephant, is as swift as an ostrich in chasing away and trampling problems, had only a single point of focus in front of his eyes on his nose and can growl like a lion!

And growl he did, when he opened my blog yesterday and saw an unappetizing crow still feeding on the ‘kozhukottai’ I placed two months back.


“ke ke ke”, was the only reaction I gave him.


He didn’t force me to write of course. But then before he kept the phone down, he made it quite clear that he missed reading my blog. (Now I really know why they say that nobody will ever love you like your parents.) And I’ve realized that truth even before my marriage.

So this is me shouting out a ‘YAY’. For having learnt a lesson in life. For having decided to write again. And also for finally deciding to clean up my shelf.

Although, the ‘yay’ for the last one has met with an untimely death I fear, somewhere in between my lungs and the solar plexus.


Festive season for me is a time to go to the local market, watch all of the interesting activities there and then get really high on yummy home-cooked food. So there i was, plonked on the bed like a flimsy bag of stuffed corn, heavy on an assortment of delicacies from an original ‘Iyer veedu’, and on the verge of falling into a deep and relaxed siesta on Ganesh chathurthi day. Inside my tummy, kozhukkattais rolled and spicy ‘rasam’ burps made their way up every now and then. Looking out through the balcony door, watching the clouds drift againt the blue sky, I was a peaceful picture of contentment. That’s when this guy landed on the balcony and cawed for a piece of that peace.  So I broke a piece of ‘kozhukottai’ and placed it on the parapet for him to feast on, while I secretly filmed him on my camera….




And that’s another picture of contentment!🙂

Ask me who are the fools??? And I’ll tell you- ‘Us’.

‘We’, who believe in the impossibility of things with more conviction than in the possibility of random events of the universe taking shape, and piecing together all on it’s own to make happen what we set out to do when we proceed to follow the song of our souls with a wee bit more of faith and courage.

And if it weren’t for those two coconut heads who bounced about and craned their necks in to come into the picture, I would’ve tried churning a real tear-jerking tragedy out of this…


drowning sun

I wake up at dawn on the first day of August month every year with a hundred voices in my head. Voices that question me and judge me, throw ideas and force me out from my bed…. Voices that break my heart with memories of the past… Voices that remind me of the small yet significant details about my life… Voices that go off loud like noisy alarm clocks… A hundred alarm clocks in my head that serve as reminders of the several birthdays of some of the closest friends I have on this planet….

August is a month full of birthdays… of few of my ‘bestestest’ friends… yes, including the very first one I had, whose hand I selfishly clasped without letting it go for a single second for fear of losing her…  The one with whom I grew up playing hopscotch… The one with whom I got drenched in the monsoons..  The one with whom i shared my first secret… The first gossip… and the first love story… The one with whom I bunked classes… The one with whom I laughed out so hard i cried… The one with whom i learnt to share.. and care… To love and be loved… And with all of whom today, I discuss marriage and babies!!!

Its strange that even at a time when I knew nothing of star signs and birthdays, I was drawn to or drawn by August babies… Its weird, but true…. I was born to an August baby.. My dad celebrates his birthday today… And would you even believe me if i told you that the count stands at 7? And every year, i have upon my slender shoulders, the task of coming up with 7 brighter gift ideas than the previous ones and then putting in more working hours for realizing them…. Sigh!!! And yet, there is a part of me that also marvels at the workings of the universe…. How this seemingly insignificant coincidence suggests that some things are  just meant to be, and work only in a way… like how they were designed to work…

So here I am once again, weepy eyed and with a heavy heart (good heavy), counting my own age with the many wonderful friends i have in my life and looking through the lovely pictures of the past…  exactly like how I’ve been doing it…. on the very first day of August month, every year!!!