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Archive for March, 2009

 

Pichle episode mein….

The ‘abomination’ bumps into a guy who had proposed to her years back in school. She is instantly flooded with the memories of those days and gets to penning them all down. AP initiates her into the world of puppy love with a ‘love letter’. She stands largely misunderstood by many young men and they all end up committing the same mistake of proposing her one after another.

A note of apology: When I started writing the ‘love letter’, I hadnt really expected it to run so long. I would not have probably broken it into two and then gone off had I realized the complexities involved with it. My apologies for all the readers who waited patiently, for I fear that time has interfered yet again and I have been unsuccessful in retaining the spirit with which I started scribbling Part-one.

The Khan Brothers:

F Khan and A Khan, two brothers fight for the same girl. Read on… 

A Khan, the decent one proposed. Me and Indu were up on the terrace when A Khan with his cronies came marching up. He called out my name, stood in front of me and looked me in the eye. No, strained a little to look me in the eye. He was short and his tiny head barely rose to my shoulders. Indu was already beginning to break at this sight. A hint of black lining beneath his nose suggested the dawn of a new era in his life. Pink pimples fought for room next to it in the open spaces of his fair cheeks. He had straight hair, done up in the very happening ‘mushroom cut’ of those days. He flipped his hair a bit, allowed the breeze to swim through its lushness, turned his head to a 30degree angle to  reveal what I think he thought was the ‘romeo’ look of his face and went: “I love you”

What emotion! What drama! But his cronies gave away and started to giggle from the sides. I controlled my laughter and folded my lips inside my mouth, careful not be rude. Then cleared my throat and said, “Well, good to know you do, but thanks, I am not interested.” I didn’t say it with such perfection then, but I let him know what I wanted him to know. He took it well and resigned to doing little jigs and tricks on his cycle.

 F Khan was the baddie and prowled alone. He chose to follow me around and harass me. The two brothers were exact opposites. F Khan grew tall and thin like a palm tree. Where pimples resided for A Khan, two very sad dimples plunged into F Khan’s cheeks. I’ve always had a special thing for dimples coz I thought it had the power to make anyone look pretty or smart. But not so with this guy. Those dimples were wasted on him. He was the elder one and more educated about women. Unwanted education at that. He flicked his finger every time I crossed. My innocence protected me by keeping me blissfully ignorant of the meaning of many such vulgarities. He followed me on his bicycle every morning to school, circling around and making lewd remarks. A small feud broke out between the two brothers one day. I can’t remember when exactly it happened, but everything came to an abrupt end after that. I’d believed then that God had heard my prayers. But something tells me now that I also maybe owe a lot to A Khan. 

The Priest

Long and lean, like a wicket he stood. At the pitch, I tossed the ball the best way I could and almost missed denting Vicky’s forehead. He screamed at me for swinging the ball so unskillfully.

“We are playing cricket here, not ‘catch n throw’!” he clarified.

The girls and boys in the apartment had assembled at the ‘ghost’ grounds to play cricket. Dust rose in the heat, clothes clung in the sweat. And I hissed like an animal at anybody who dared to comment that my bowling sucked!

Wiping the sweat off my brow, I rubbed the ball on my pretty yellow frock, ran from the far end of the ground, slowed down and stopped when I reached the pitch, and standing with my foot firm on the line, casually tossed the ball with the delicacy of a flower. Everybody had an expression that suggested they wanted to bang their own heads.

Vicky swung his bat. The ball took to the air and flew and flew and kept on flying until it landed in a bush. I was ordered to bring it back. ‘TP’, very sweetly volunteered to come with me. We both put our hands between the thorns, pulled out creepers, razed the grasslands. But the ball was not to be found anywhere. I lost my patience and went and kicked a stone and probably applied too much force than was required and ended up hurting myself. ‘TP’ looked at me with a lot of sympathy and understanding.

The next day, as I walked past the chess club of the colony where a group of guys were seated, a sudden shout emerged: “Bales!”

The initial few times it came out, I didn’t notice it. But when the shouts seemed to distinctly follow me and turn in the direction where I went, I began to wonder what they were shouting and why it was following me.

For the next few days the “Bales” call turned out to emanate from almost everywhere I went. I finally caught Vicky and questioned him. He said bales was that small stump like thing they placed on top of the wickets. So I asked him if he had any reason to believe why people could be shouting that word out at me? He sniggered and ran away.

Next day, the answer materialised in the form of a friend who came running with the message of a throbbing heart. TP, at some point while searching for the ball had realised that he had felt a strange pleasure in pulling out creepers and was now ready to do so forever.

So it came to be. He was ‘wickets’ and I came to be known as ‘Bales’. When the calls became annoyingly increasing, I sought my friend’s help. And after many counseling sessions, she got him to end it all. The ‘love-ending’ ceremony was to be conducted in the balcony of my friend’s house and all the kids demanded to be invited.

And so, on a windy november evening, TP ceremoniously drew into a growing audience, proceeded calmly to the podium (a low lying furniture), raised his hand to the Holy Bible and took an oath. The deed was done, the crowd dispersed, I thanked my friend and the ‘Bales’ call ended.

After two days, pandemonium broke out in the grounds. My friend who was in the midle of the crowd, hushed everyone, and came out looking very disturbed. When enquired, the problem looked grave indeed!

TP had made a fake promise on the Bible. Sacrilege!

He hadnt really touched the Bible, but merely held his hand above it. So technically speaking, he was still allowed to continue ‘lovin’ me, she explained.

This story has no ending. I shot to fame by entangling myself in a religious scandal at the tender age of 10 and was famously known as ‘Bales’ in and around the ‘ghost grounds’ for years to come.

The blue-eyed-wonder boy

The great big proposal came when I was in 8th. ‘Mo’ was smart, charming and polite. Girls loved him. Parents liked him. Teachers adored him. And he liked me. In another story, the dove-eyed lass would have gladly accepted the wonder boy’s proposal and the young things would have ended happily together until they grew up and realized better, and then departed with the memories of their first ever puppy love. But this one story has me in it and I have no dove-eyes. I feigned enthusiasm when all of the girls in my class went raving about Shah Rukh Khan in KKHH.

Instead, inspired by BBC documentaries, I pulled out all of my paint brushes and also Achan’s shaving ones, and dedicated my life to digging out dinosaur skeletons from the backyard.

Amma was in tears. I obsessed with things that meant little and maybe even insignificant to the rest of the world. Marriage woes began right there for her I believe.

After one year of pursuing me, wonder-boy finally did what half of the lost kids in India would do after a heavy dose of Bollywood. He cut his hand with a blade.

The KKHH girls were in awe of wonder-boy. They decided to make a move for me. And wonder-boy was given the news of my ‘acceptance’. Things took a different turn then. A feeling of uncertainty kept increasing in on me. And I found out why. In a week’s time it was called off. Turns out, there was a small mutiny rising against me in the men’s quarters. Wonder-boy was chosen to be the avenger. And the aspiring paleontologist ended being a mere pawn in a great big bet! Or so goes the story…..

Raj, the geek

Raj darted a glance at me through his soda glasses. I was on my way to the twin’s house for the weekly ‘combined study’ ritual, which basically involved 2 hours of yapping and gaping and 5 precious minutes of absorbing what the brightest head in the group had to sprinkle at us. I walked past him and just when I was about to enter the building, I heard a faint echo of my name floating in the air. I turned. Raj was holding a heavy physics book in his hand, sweating profusely and swallowing huge gulps of air, as always. But he seemed to smile at me now. I looked around me to make sure he was smiling at me. It’s not everyday that you’ll get an ‘Einstein’ to smile at you. Through an intricate work of braces layered over big yellow teeth, he seemed to be smiling only at me. Knowing him to be harmless, I walked up to him. He shifted the book from one hand to another, fumbled about with his shirt and then finally said:

“Umm, er…. Please don’t misunderstand me, but I think you are very umm… cute. Will you please… ummm… marry me?”

Now if he had just stopped at the compliment, I would’ve been polite and said thanks, thrown my usual dialogue and walked away. But without any intention to humiliate him, I roared about the marriage proposal until it caught the ‘kitty party association’s ’ attention. I stopped laughing. He turned and walked away, evidently hurt.

I was uncouth, I was reckless, I was ill-tempered, but I was never rude. And for the first time, I felt bad. He never spoke to me after that. Not even glanced at me once. I tried my best to somehow get him for a few minutes alone so that I could apologize, but he avoided me like an allergy. And it ended there… 

The crazed lover

Cinderella dreams- the kind of stuff that every girl grows up on. Her lost shoe fetched her a Prince. And she got to feature in a fancy ‘Fairy tale’. But some others only get to get laughed at on some vague blogpost.

By this time, another ‘avatar’ had descended upon my strange world to prove that love required a bit of irrational craziness- Sri. He fought no demons and rescued Cinderella from no evil step sisters. Instead decided to do all of the torturing himself and took to following the ignominious princess around wherever she went. Yoga room, playground, art room, if a tiny bit of space allowed him to stand on his one leg, he would gladly claim it for the sheer pleasure of getting a good view. And Cinderella on many occasions locked herself up inside the toilet; opting to bear the horrible stench because that was the only place he couldn’t get into and it gave her a few precious moments of freedom.

He became extremely annoying for the princess and her trusted maiden because he grew into an ardent follower and many of their adventurous trips had to be put on hold indefinitely. He stole her pencil box and returned it stuffed with love letters. He left chocolates on her path, looked at her dreamily from behind trees and walls and flowers, scourged through her bag, found out her test papers, saw the glorious grades and advised her to study hard. He got hold of her phone number and gave her blank calls. He hid her shoes and when Cinderella returned from the yoga room to start a desperate hunt for her ‘missing’ shoes, it left her alone in an empty class. And he would make use of this opportunity to convince her to love him back. That was Cinderella’s first brush with a valiant prince of the real world! (oh, how I hate fairy tales!)

Su, the revered and mighty senior

It was the last hour of the day. I got back after yoga class and found myself the deplorable victim of Sri’s shoe hiding tricks once again.

I thought I could outsmart Sri and started hiding my own shoes. But somehow when I got back that afternoon, they were gone from my secret hiding place. It’s anybody’s guess now how that would’ve happened.

Anyways the kids left, classes grew empty, corridors echoed with the fading steps of a few remnant kids. Indu had gone to wash her face. A few seniors were playing basketball outside at the court. I climbed up the teacher’s table and hunted around for my shoes and finally found them on top of the classroom shelf. I picked it up and put them on. And that’s when I heard it. The rhythmic thudding sound of a basketball in the corridor. It echoed through the empty classrooms and seemed to grow louder and closer. I picked my bag and stepped out.  

‘Su’, one of the most revered seniors of our times stood before me, dribbling the basketball. Two days back, he had sent one of his ‘rakhi’ sisters to pass on the message of his aching heart to me and in all my uncouthness I had run off with Indu without being able to contain my enthusiasm, to find out about the strange orange mushrooms that were growing on the slope behind the cracked wall of the school.

Su stood towering over me dribbling his ball. I looked at the empty corridor and prayed Indu would return. She did not. In an irrepressible ‘Kozhikode’ accent he shot:

“Anakku inne ishtalla?” (You don’t like me?)

 “Er, nothing like that ‘Bhayya’, went I stressing on that word.

And continued: “But yes, I don’t like you the way you want me to like you.”

“And why is that?” 

Realising my ‘Bhayya’ strategy hadnt worked very well, I decided to just blurt out whatever:

“illa, onnum illa (no particular reason), I have to go now. Just please let me pass ” said I, sounding as impatient and disrespectful as I could get.

Annoyed, he blocked my path. His one arm could cover half of the corridor already. Then he came closer, looked at me piercingly and closed the other half of the corridor with his left arm.

Though my heart was threatening to explode any moment, I stood my ground and tried hard to decide my next move. If I tried to push his left arm, he could always grab me with the other and curl me inside. That would make things worse. And since I did not possess the strength to move a mountain, I did not consider pushing him a clever move either. I stood there telling myself to breathe and chanting the names of a legion of Hindu gods I knew.

If Im alive and unbroken today, I think its because I took His name at all the right times. For from the other end of the corridor, I heard footsteps approaching. I slowly looked behind Su and found Indu hopping, happily humming a tune and with her hands inside the skirt pockets. I breathed. Indu saw what was happening and stopped. For a second she considered turning around and fleeing. But then decided something else and walked right past us into the class, picked up her bag and came out. While crossing me, she looked at me passively. We were experts at fleeing from the scene of all our petty crimes. The message was given. She casually walked past me and gave Su a smile. When Su turned to smile back at her, I gulped down something that felt like a pebble inside my throat and took all of my strength and broke through the barrier of his right arm while Indu pushed him to the wall.

Somebody kicked the ball as it hit the pillar and rolled ahead of us. And I remember laughing, while the wind hit me on the face and the sweetest gulp of air spread through my lungs as we both ran across the corridor and hurtled down the steps. I always see it in slow motion. Su didnt follow us, but we didn’t stop until we reached outside the school gates. And he never bothered us after that.

Sri’s trap had lured another predator into it and this prey had had a narrow escape. I never forgave him for it.

These are the few guys I can remember solely because of the unique abilities they exhibited while courting. There are more tales to tell, but then there are chances of it getting reduced to an ‘oh-so-wonderful-me’ talk and I wouldn’t want it to go that way. Like I mentioned earlier, this was not written to humiliate or hurt or get back at anybody. None of the people I have mentioned here are readers of this blog (I hope). But the world is a strange place and I wouldn’t take chances.

Though most of the incidents were irritating at the time, they have also helped me to come out of trickier situations that I encountered later on in my life. In addition to it, they also helped me to easily spot the right guy when he came along. (wink)  

So all is well that ends well dear folks! Now let me go sit next to a very shocked father, hold his hand tight, give him a peck on his cheek and pacify him.

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I received my first love letter when I was in 6th STD. It was a small paper rolled beyond its capacities to look like a parchment and was handed out to me by ‘AP’, a guy who was reputed to have proposed ‘all’ the girls in my school.

On my visit to Cochin this time, I happened to meet one of the many guys whose stories are detailed below and who had induced in me a false sense of silent pride every time I got noticed. It’s laughable now; the innocent and not so innocent ones and their romantic pursuits and I simply had to write about it.

This is no boastful account of a teenage beauty’s crowded love life. Just a recollection of funny stories from an abomination’s ‘growing up’ years. I would like everybody to keep in mind that back in Calicut where I grew up, a girl need’nt necessarily be pretty. By virtue of her birth into womanhood alone, she was naturally entitled to a lot of attention; most of it unwanted from the simple folks of that remote corner of the then unexposed Malabar Coast.

 

I had shifted to a new school and was only just adjusting to the new environment and the monstrous kids that I had encountered there. My only friend was my neighbour’s kid, Indu. I’ll leave our tales for another day, for it’s a long account of few of the best and daring adventures ever lived by two ordinary girls in a place thick with taboos and social norms for girls that worked against them.

Indu had tried her best to get me to sit next to her, but the rest of the kids turned hostile and threw me out, and I had to stand outside the class until our History teacher ‘Ezra’ sir walked in. Inside, the kids hurled paper balls and shot pencil arrows at each other. Outside, I stood boldly, unaffected by the doings of the monsters.

Ezra Sir was a kind man. When he saw me fidgeting outside his classroom, he bent down and asked me gently in a thick Punjabi ac’zzent’,-

“Yezz…?”

Er, sir, I am a new student. I don’t know where to sit.

Oh, zat izz the problem. Come inzzide firzzt.

Ztudentzz… Look here.

 

The monsters and tribal warriors scattered all over the class now scurried towards their seats and looked at Ezra sir.

 

We got a new ztudent here. Pleazze introduze yourself girl… “

 

In my impeccable manners that had been cultivated in me by my patient teachers in my previous school, I smiled, took a step forward, looked at the entire class and said:

“Hello everybody, My name is Charulekha”

(Giggles from the crowd)

I am coming from ‘Bhavans’

(Murmurs)

My father is a journalist and my mother is a house…

Ezra sir interrupted:

Whatzz your name again?

Sir ‘Charulekha’

 

And suddenly, a pesky one sitting on my bench shouted out:

“Are you Sharukh Khan’s sister?”

The rest of my introduction was lost in laughter as Ezra sir caught ‘Pesky’ and gave him a tight one on his back and send him flying to his bench. And I was christened on the first class of my first day in school as ‘Charu Khan’.

 

“mmm… Na na naaaaa aaa… aaa aa aaan…..” echoed the corridor.

‘Sha’ Master’s music always preceded him. Music class.

Our music master walked in, pulled the chair and sat down and continued to toss the ‘ragas’ in the air. Children rose, wished their Sir, and sat down. As the Master continued twisting and pulling a few tones here and there, ‘Pesky’ interrupted:

 

“Saaar, new student saar…”

 

‘Mahaganapathim’ froze in mid air. Master banged his fist and got up. He rolled his eyes and looked about the classroom. Some kids faked fear and shrieked. Master was very impressed with this. I tried to hide behind my neighbor, ‘aana kutty’s (baby elephant) huge head, nicknamed so owing to his size, sadly. But the Master was an expert and the idea of a fresher excited him. He started with an incantation in which he explained how the new one will be tested today and how ‘it’ will have to go through the rigorous rituals and all. The new one shifted in her seat and grew more and more alert.

 

“Saar, she is here saar”, announced Pesky 2

 

Master finally sniffed the new one out and grinned. Silence….

He looked, smiled and asked me to stand up

I smiled back and stood up

 

“Hmmm…. Name?

“Cha…. CHAARU KHAAAN saar…

I turned to give a cold stare down to show how unimpressed I was.

 

“Charulekha’, I went, breaking through the laughter.

“Oh what does your name mean?

 

Well, Charu means ‘beautiful’ and Lekha means ‘writing’. So it means ‘beautiful writing’

 

 “Oooooooooo” went the class in awe.

“Beautiful name”, commented ‘Sha’ master

I wanted to run home and hug my dad for blessing me with such a beautiful name right then.

 

So you mean to say you are a ‘Sundari’?

I kept silent

Well, ‘Sundari’, a ritual is a ritual and no one gets spared.

 

 “SING!” He commanded

 

Very well, I was surrounded by more severe cases of abomination and had nothing to lose. So I sang my favourite ‘Kabhi Kabhi’. Master smiled after my performance and announced the result as the kids looked on at their ‘Chief’ eagerly

 “PASS”. And she shall be known as ‘Sundari’ from here on”

 

And then, the love letters started pouring in.

 

AP, the first:

I opened the scroll, amused and excited about my very first love letter. Indu craned her neck to look at the contents that were scribbled with a hand that was evidently inexperienced with ball point pens.

 

The letter said: “Hey little parrot, you sing so sweet. What is your name?”

 

I burst out laughing and handed over the scroll to Indu. She thumped her fist on the wall and rolled against it. And then helped me write a ‘fitting’ reply:

 

“I already told my name in the class, you dumb crow!”

 

That was the start. AP’s heart broke, but not for more than a day. He went and proposed Soumya next morning.

 

The pesky kids

News about the new girl’s rejection of AP spread like wildfire in the badlands of the back benchers. They were surprised by this delicate being’s unnerving attitude. Polite and sweet and yet so ‘uncouth’. And funny too. Their curiosity later turned into a fascination for this strange creature that meekly looked, talked, walked, floated even (owing to gusts of strong winds) like a girl and yet seemed to look down upon the male species of the ‘Homo sapiens’ with utter disdain. Preferring to move only in the company of the outcast of their class, she was elusive. Nobody knew what dark secrets she had and what strange activities she indulged in.

 

Of course, if they had seen that I turned into a wild creature outside school, as I took to the trees and ran around digging holes to catch ‘kuzhi aanas’ (sand bugs) and tadpoles with my bare hands, they would’ve got disgusted and not turned to take another look at me. But Indu and I were cautious not to let anybody know about our little sunbird’s nest behind the Principal’s house and the fox dens outside the playground for fear of it getting destroyed in the hands of the merciless warriors.

So by the unintended swish of a fairy’s lost wand, I turned into a princess overnight and remained elusive for a long time to come.

Most of the lunch breaks were spent on rejecting the ‘peskies’. The class rowdy Jo, sent a troop of his existing girlfriends to send his word of invite to add me to his harem. Melvin wrote my name with a sketch pen on his chest and flashed it in front of everyone. Gopi carved my name on his desk. And many sad walls and trees bore the pointy edges of compasses and dividers to hold my name paired with that of various ‘peskies’ in the school compound. This whole new experience was totally overwhelming for me and I silently enjoyed all the attention, even when I promised Indu that I hadn’t changed a bit. But fortunately, we all soon grew out of it in less than a year’s time as I lost the sheen of newness, and we went on to behave like normal classmates.

 

The Khan Brothers:

‘F’ Khan and ‘A’ Khan, two brothers decide to fight for the same girl.

But I am gonna have to break it for now, for lack of time and space. Do come back again for the gory details, for the ‘peskies’ are all grown up now!

 

To be contd…..

 

Part 2

 

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Remember the Indian Terrain ads? The one that had Kunal Kapoor sitting in smart Indian Terrain brand clothes against a small tea shack with ‘bondas’ and a little Indian girl on either sides? I loved the composition of those photographs (and the model Kunal Kapoor) so much that after it was released, I went ahead and gave them more publicity through my ‘word of mouth’.

But today, I have replaced ‘Kunal Kapoor’- the one guy worth every dribble of my drool from all of Bollywood, with something more real and ahem, more attainable- This!!!

 

pashu-kutty

 

I had to talk to the real owner of this pic for almost half an hour to convince him and put up an aggressive fight to fend off a few other claimants to wrench custody of this picture that has a similar feel of the Indian Terrain ads… Of course, one must be willing to understand that it was taken with the limitations of a phone camera without particularly any other intention than sheer visual pleasure.

 

I give the credit for this capture to the real guy who deserves it- Big daddy! Though it was not intended, the colours, the lighting and the blue walls have worked brilliantly to make it a well-constructed photograph. Also, I cannot stop looking at this charming lil guy who has posed for this picture with his ears all spread out… Aint he a real ‘chundu’?  

 

Talking about Indian terrain ads, I’d like to post one of my own pics in here under this category. Although, this one will only qualify for a ‘Fake’ Indian Terrain. 

 

 

fake-indian-terrain

 

This was taken during one of our CTC treks to ‘Yelagiri’ in Tamil Nadu. We had camped at a village at night and the early morning sunshine turned out to be a real inspiration when it brightened up and brought out the dormant colours of this quiet little village.

 

Hmmm, somehow this post has turned out to be all about Big Daddy. One picture was taken by him and the other has him in it. And they both have ended up being together under the same category in a post. Strange indeed!

 

 

 

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Atop a small rubber estate, a few kilometers from Palghat, is a home that holds a special place in my heart and one that I crave to go to everytime I think I need some space of my own- my dad’s sister’s place. 8years back, my aunt sold her house in the city and bought this plot atop a hill. All the elders scolded her for having made this seemingly bad move. “To leave a nice place in the city and go bury yourself in some godforsaken place?”

And to top it all, it was deserted. Human settlements were comparatively lesser and she only had one neighbour at the time. Houses were rarely visible in the midst of rubber trees and the wild vegetation. For 8 years, she worked on the house, planted saplings and plants, bought a cow from her neighbour and nurtured them all. And this is the result!

 

 

You are welcomed by a profusion of colours, smells and sounds of this stunning house and its beautiful gardens. So these days, whenever my workoholic dad thinks he needs a break from his hectic schedule, he and amma will just jump into the car in the afternoons and drive for 3hours, just so that they can gift themselves with the absolute calm and beauty of this place.

 

 

These flowers, that were once a part of every ‘poo muttam’ (flower garden) in most ‘Keralan’ homes, have now been replaced by exotic orchids and other ‘dandies’. But my aunt could never drive the natives away. So she took extra efforts to find them all and put them back to where they truly deserved to belong.

Everytime I open the gates and walk towards the house, I get this feeling of how it might be bringing back memories and romantic notions of youth to a lot of people, now past their prime. Who involved not maybe with expensive bouquets and roses, but probably of holding the face of the beloved as these flowers bloomed in full moon nights and then again encountered them at the temples in the mornings, inside the flower baskets of their shy and demure lovers.

               

Ok, there is also a possibility that I just might be wrong completely about their romantic endeavours, coz I’m only just imagining all of it now. But deep within every ‘malayali’ heart, I believe a song would erupt out of sheer admiration and love for all things native, traditional and pretty. Atleast, it does bring one song from my childhood into my mind…

“Pavizhammalli poothullanjya neela vaanam..…”

 

 

From the driveway, as we proceed to the house, amma always braces herself for a real aggressive welcome. We all watch out for ‘Appu’ if we don’t hear the assurance that my aunt shouts out from the porch- that he is tied and therefore we are safe to encroach upon ‘his’ territory. If he is not tied, then it’s a scene to behold. Appu, with his tongue flying in the air and ears heavily alert will dart at us with unbeatable speed and smother us with his love and complaints.

He was found an orphan and picked up by my aunt’s maid on her way to work. My aunt had not wanted him then, but when the little fur ball took to her instantly, licking her feet with the promise of undying love, she picked him up and gave him a home. He has ever since been my aunt’s second boy, more obedient than the first one, (actually, its quite debatable) eating only vegetarian food and known to howl out ‘Om’ whenever she does ‘puja’ in the evenings. In the summer, he picks up unspoilt, fallen mangoes from the neighbour’s compound and brings it for my aunt without making a single mark of his teeth on it. He also likes to dig out fresh tapiocas, can finish a whole bowl of ‘paal sadam’ (milk rice) in a minute, carries forward the canine chewing habits using drumsticks and is always hungry.

This is him after his initial enthusiasm died away, which was after demanding that dad’s travel bag be handed over to him, pulling amma’s sari, trying to make a meal out of me and then rejecting me as a worthless prey, chasing away all the inquisitive sqirrels and drilling holes in the water hose… all to let us know just how happy he is to have us. Yep, the only time to be anywhere around him is either when he is completetly exhausted from play or dried up by the sun.

 

appu

 

From this porch where Appu is seen beating the day’s heat, is a beautiful view to the garden and of the sky.

 

creeper-2

 

My aunt has provided for passion fruit creepers (or some ‘aboriginal’ cousin of it) to climb and wind around poles and pipes of metal and twine. A band of squirrels raid the place in the mornings and evenings, but they were unusually missing when the skies threatened to burst and prompted ‘Appu’ to perform a live ‘whining’ concert.

 

img_0920

 

 

 

This place calms not only the people of my dad’s times and types, but also the hopeless romantics of ours. I have spent days together feeding the cows, playing with appu, walking barefoot clicking pictures and exploring the hillside. And my favourite corner is under this huge mango tree that I call the ‘Sage tree’. A nice big boulder, evenly flat at the top rests under it and instantly reminds me of pious and meditative saints from the epics. It’s a beautiful place to sit and read and ponder. The tree has an aura about it and you will understand what I’m saying when you see the picture. I don’t belive in reworking on pictures and hence can confidently say that whatever you see is what I promised you would get to see of the tree’s actual aura caught on camera. Alternatively, it could also mean that I suck at photography.

 

sage-tree

 

I am going home to visit my parents tomorrow and have already begun the preparations for making my dad feel like he really, very badly needs to take a ‘break’!

 

 

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Namma savannah

While going through my various photo files taken during train journeys in Tamil Nadu, I found this one pic that I hadn’t quite noticed when I took it. Now this might sound crazy, but it somehow reminds me of the African ‘savannahs’!!!!

 

The rough and untamed terrain, the thorny vegetation, the earthy colours and the marvelous skies. Perfect for a game of prey-predator. Only thing missing of course is an elephant and a few zebras. And a hungry lion aiming from this side of the pic, the behind of an unfortunate zebra. That is if the lions don’t pass out after they discover the vast deposits of human excreta behind those bushes!

 

 

“Naants ingonyaama bagithi baaba… (there comes the lion)

Sithi uhhmm ingonyaama… ” (oh yes its a lion)

– “the circle of life”,’Lion king’

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After deciding to exit my mother’s womb earlier than she had wanted and everybody had expected, I created a series of complications for myself and for the people around me, to finally make what has come of it today to be my life! I had made my point early in life that nobody but me gets to decide about my life. Well, maybe God gets to decide too, but nobody got on that point back then.

Amma said that I just could’nt sit in one place. Even if she managed to hold me down, after exactly 5 seconds, I would start shaking my legs listlessly to show my non co-operation. She claims to have been made to run around the water-well in our Palghat house for so many times that she said, had she done the same at the ‘Guruvayoor temple’ around the deity, she wouldve got a special mention in ‘God’s place’. And that several cats would also have been worthy of the same, as I had run after many with the sole intention of pulling out their tails. She said I was drawn to animals. Anything that moved and could transport itself from one place to another immediately caught my attention and I would stare at it intently (when I was too young to move), and chased it around (when I started to move), until the poor creature got fed up and fled. I even used to throw stones into the well at my own reflection and clap everytime I managed a bullseye! Abomination? I’m thinking it too.  Amma was so unimpressed with her own creation that I remember when I once asked her why she didn’t have any more kids after me, she almost scowled and said that she was not particularly interested in raising any more monkeys.

School was a pain. And I was a bigger pain. There were birds and cows and trees outside, open blue skies and floating white clouds. There was so much to see, so much to hear, so much to know and so much to do. And yet, when the bell rang, I’d have to leave ‘em all and go back to my bench, ‘finger to the lip’ and all. I had no use of any of the many books and other gadgets I took to school. So erasers were cut into several tiny pieces with my ruler and distributed equally among friends. And once when my dad’s good friend got me a pack of scented erasers in animal shapes, I decided to be benevolent and share it with them as always. Frogs with amputed legs, trunkless elephants wihout tusks and beheaded monkeys without tails lay dead in my pencil box, creating a wave of worry in my mom’s mind. Pencils made for wonderful snacks during classes and when I took them back with chewed on ends, my mom rolled her eyes and replaced them with the ones that had rubber tops.
By the time quaterly exams approached, my books covered neatly in brown paper wouldve started to get eaten away at the corners. By mid year, it would have started to come loose. And I wondered why my teachers made such a big fuss about it, coz when the year ended, out they were going to fly from my study room anyway!! The textbooks met with a different fate though. They were handed down to kids from the neighbourhood.Tattered and ill-treated, some would dangle pathetically from a weak thread. Others would look as good as new. Untouched and smelling as good, it invited inquisitive glances from my father. He’d turn around and ask me genuinely: “Which class did you just pass out from?” And I’d say: “How does it matter now, I passed right? And if you are wondering about the book, you can give that away”. And dash off through the balcony door, ignoring my mother’s desperate calls.

Two long lazy months stretched ahead and it beckoned to me and my friends to undertake adventurous and perilous journeys into unknown neighbourhoods and forbidden grounds. The summer heat never tired us. With only a pair of ‘Hawai’ chappals and a dry stick, we would clamber up the small hill, to discover fox dens and then follow the trail of black pellets of goat poop that took us further away from our homes through narrow paths to a grassy patch on top, where the skies beamed down on us bright and blue and where the wildest of flowers bloomed. Trees were our friends and they also served as a second home. Their branches were safe resting places and provided an ambush from the human predators who lurked below. And if we saw an enemy pass, like the gossiping ‘spy aunty’ or the gym-bodied ‘rock uncle’, we would camouflage in the foliage and launch an attack with dead branches and unripe fruits from above. The enemy being the enemy would lodge complaints of course, but laughing our guts out, we’d dismiss all thoughts of having to face angry parents at home in the evening.

Great mango robberies were aslo committed during the afternoons and wealthy men would wake up in their big homes after a siesta to find their gardens massacred. We would stuff our bellies with mangoes, jackfruits and wild berries until it swelled and hurt. And then lie down under the shade and doze off in the breeze.

And when the monsoons arrived, many little rivulets formed a huge network of waterways and flowed into a great big sewage. By second week, little brown fishes would appear in large numbers and with upturned colocasia leaves on our heads, we would catch them with our hands. Soon, we’d all have scaly, wriggling bodies crowding around in empty ‘complan’ bottles.

Teachers all over cried out about the ‘abomination’ at PTA meetings. Amma sighed. Achan took disciplinary action. Nothing changed. Achan got me crayons. I filled the house with murals. Crayons were kept hidden. When I won a drawing competition at school, he returned the crayons and brought me water colours. I messed up the entire goddamn house but they put up with it because they liked it, everybody liked it. And when I wrote, everybody breathed in relief. I finally had some hope of making it, they thought. But that’s when ‘maths’ turned serious. ‘P’ madam’s pinch marks in the tender soft portion near my underarms left deep scars inside my mind. I stuck my arms to my body without ever raising them, careful not to expose the insults while playing. Self esteem dropped with the marks and when the complaints mounted, the writing stopped. So did the reading. Paintings were discarded. My music teacher ran away after a month, leaving a message to my mom, “she has good voice and talent, but she is impossible to deal with, I’m sorry”. Amma and acha went back to sighing and disciplining.

That was years back. You’d think a child who grew up with a strict disciplinarian like my father with ethics and values in place, would turn into a fine young woman. Many concerned aunties in our apartment sympathised with amma and came to console her. One old grandlady said things would change and that I would one day blossom into a fine young lady. Poor her, if she could see from up there the fine mess that I have grown up into, she would descend straight from the heavens right now and hold my mother’s hand and weep into her sari fold. Somebody should have told her that I was reckless and beyond redemption.

After so many years of education and hard earned money spent to help me earn degrees, marks and certificates, all of which were a struggle, I went ahead and quit my job last year.There were the usual raised eyebrows, sympathectic eyes, listening ears, preaching tongues, flailing limbs, nodding heads and then, a few upturned lips. After dealing with all of the above, I went ahead and started to do freelancing jobs and voice overs. The money was’nt much, but it was enough to get me through my bills and also to work on and bring out all of those things, ‘my things that made me’, that I had buried inside me.

“I lied down by the window, and read when the sunshine peeped in during summer and listened to music when it rained. I penned vague thoughts, watched lousy movies and a few good ones, opened a blog, took long walks, talked to random people on the road, experimented new roads, discovered old temples, watched the clouds at the pace that they drifted, photographed anything that moved or glowed, experimented with food, learned to cook, pondered over life, felt blessed, admitted to my parents that they were the real gods, thanked my friends, vowed to love them all more, promised to work harder but only for the things that mattered, brushed away my unsuccessful past and the dust from the canvas and paints, played with the colours, framed a few works, gifted them to friends, practised my voice, sang out loud, woke the drunk watchman from his sleep, collected fallen leaves and flowers, stocked them up inside books, marvelled at their undying beauty, fed street mongrels, walked home happy at having created a flurry of wagging tails, and slept by the same window, in summer and in rain….

Today, I stand to represent everything a person ought not to be, according to the rules laid down for the human kind, by the human kind. I had no job, no designation, no money, no status, no power, no security and not surprisingly, no worries. I am reckless, unprepared and now driving ‘amma’ up the wall with marriage woes. Parents and teachers and other successful, respectable members of the society took my case at weddings and gatherings and grilled me. They could teach their children with an example now, ‘what not to be’ and ‘what not to do’- ‘To be one’s own self and start living!’

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