Wednesday, January 26, 2005

A trip to Kasargode! (oct 2004)

My Husband had a small assignment at Kasargode…and I frowned as I’m wont to whenever he informs me abt an upcoming outstation trip …he asked me if I would accompany him..a moments hesitation when I thought about the kids…V’amma (my MIL) assured me that they would be fine and the decision was made…

27 oct-my birthday- we don’t celebrate b’days as such…( never much into celebrations/ rituals/ gift exchange on occasions- we give gifts when we feel like without waiting for a reason)

…somewhere around midnite, Vamshi (Husband) woke me up to wish me…and early morning he handed me a card…it was still dark, and he switched on his cell and I read the card in the blue glow of the cell……….

I was making coffee, and my puttars come to me in the kitchen, usually I have a tough time trying to wake them up …today they’re already awake- I’m surprised- they hand over a small package- and I open it – it is a small placard telling me what a wonderful mom I’m., and a diary milk bar- my favourite!. …a couple of dear friends call to wish me…and there were wishes in my mail box too… My day has begun wonderfully

Packed the puttars off to school with numerous directions- how to help their grandmother and be good boys…a pang as I wished them goodbye…

Boarded the train in the afternoon..the climate was pleasant..the train was practically empty…spent the daytime talking, reading, eating and sleeping…and just being together…
We eached kasargode early next morning…took an auto to aunt’s place…after the first news exchange- freshened up, slept some more…

After breakfast we went site seeing- cousin had arranged a taxi, and the driver was a known person…he doubled up as our guide too…First we went to a temple Madhur- the deity was Lord Ganesha…the temple was huge and imposing- but crowded too…The sun shone mercilessly and treading the precincts barefoot was tricky…

There was this huge batch of students sitting around the temple making sketches from various angles…possibly students of architecture- seemed to have come down from the North…there was a huge tank outside the temple…the scenery was beautiful.

Next we visited the temple in Ananthapuri… On the way, the driver pointed to a lonely mansion on a hillock, built in the traditional Kerala style. He informed us that the building had been uprooted from elsewhere and reconstructed stone by stone, brick by brick onto the present location by the owner. However, seemed the mansion was inhospitable due to inexplicable reasons and was now standing a barren witness watching over the hillock.

The landscape was mesmerizing- the place was serene .The Sahyadri ranges stretched endlessly to the horizon..The solitude was soothing…there were rocky terrains on one side..and a vast expanse of tall grass of variant shades of green- and as the blades swayed in the breeze- the undulations were such that it seemed like waves lashing in a verdant sea…

The temple was built in the center of a square lake…the idol was under renovation and was not made of any metal or stone but of specially medicated and consecrated herbs…”katusharkara yogam”

The place was so beautiful and serene…we sipped fresh lime juice sitting on the platform encircling a huge banyan tree…

It was noon by now and we returned to Aunt’s place, had a sumptuous lunch and chatted with our cousins…
Evening came and we left for Bekal fort…a site captured on celluloid several times…most memorable perhaps in Manirathnam’s “Bombay”- who would forget Manisha Koirala running as Arvind Swamy crooned “Uyire/ tu hi re”…I’ve heard that the screen shook and shuddered in synchronized harmony with Manisha…and the watching Nation heaved…all hearsay…I cannot comment because the small screen does not do justice to the picturisation, I understand…

We climbed the slope up the fort, the view was spectacular from the top…there were these small gaps in the walls which was left open and one could look aross the horizon…Along the path to the beach were this little peepholes on the fort walls which were dug out ina kind of downward angle, and one could see the waves lashing onto the rocky shores and bursting into foamy smithereens… the sea looked unruly that evening and the security weer closing access by 6.30 pm…the sun was going down into the sea…and while everybody was ecstatic about it, I remained untouched…the sea always depressed me- I prefer watching the sun sink into the greens…or cliffs..

Here again there were the students…talked to some of them- they were from Sophia College- Mumbai…their exuberant youth and cheer took me back to my college memories…

After a take home dinner of biriyani, porottas ( different from North Indian Paranthas) .. waving goodbyes to aunt and cousins, we boarded the train that nite…the train was yet again empty…we slept off soon enough…reached home next afternoon- the train journey was as enjoyable as the rest of the trip, and both of us were refreshed after the small break from routine…

Puttars were also refreshed after the tiny time off from Momma Hitler, and had a nice time with V’amma…

After lunch, tried to log in but the cable was down…after a few impatient hours was able to log in, and what do I see? B’day wishes in a blog and loads of wishes…and some more mails…ha…this b’day was beautiful…

I'm grateful...

Thursday, January 20, 2005


Sleep ,endless sleep, from which one never has to wake up ,why do you elude me thus?Fear grips my soul I am afraid of what? Of myself? Of this world? Of everything?The face in the mirror is that of a stranger. The eyes are vacant, listless. I feel exhausted my eyelids, they droop, oh! Where can I rest? Where can I put down this heavy burden that I am carrying? But no, my destination is still very far off and I am in the middle of Nowhere.Vast stretches of sand ,only sand all around me, no tracks, no route, only sand in front, behind and on all sides ,time is too little, and I am all alone, - that hairline difference between solitude and loneliness-a void, which nobody or anything could ever occupy. Oh! This oppressing solitude!My co-travellers have gone far ahead ,leaving me lagging painfully. But I have no regrets. I do not grudge them their victory. I feel no envy, no jealousy. I have never been interested in running the race. Fighting has never been my forte. Perhaps I am a defeatist. But I cannot be concerned .Apathy. is my second name. If only I could simply disappear, dissolve into The Void -if only everything would end in a moment, like a bubble burst.But this loneliness oppresses me. The pungent smell of solitude torments my soul. Finally, I resolve to take a step forward ,but wait what is this? My feet refuse to move, are they made of lead?? Standing I remain, neither do I falter nor do I fall, firm as a fixture- my vacant gaze on the fast disappearing forms of my co-travellers. I look on helplessly ,waiting for The Moment of Deliverance!

(the above lines, I jotted many, many years ago in my diary...)

Never say Goodbye-Missing you so

Goodbye is such a sad word. It seems too final, too cold, for friends to use. We seem to have so many ways of saying Goodbye and they all have one thing in common-Sadness. Dont ever say Goodbye. Dont ever give in to the sadness and loneliness of that word. Remember instead the joy and the happiness of those times when you first said Hallo to a friend. Take that special hallo and lock it away within you, in that place in your heart where it is always summer time. When you and your friends must part, I want you to reach deep within you and bring back that special Hallo.
Author- anonymous.

Nothing can make up for the absence of someone whom we love, and it would be wrong to try to find a substitute. We must simply hold out and see it thru. That sounds very hard at first, but at the same time, it is a great consolation, for the gap, as long as it remains unfilled, preserves the bond between us. It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap; he doesnt fill it, but on the contrary, he keeps it empty and so helps us to keep alive our former communion with eachother , even at the cost of pain.

Theologian Dietrich Bon Hoeffer-(1906-1945)- in letters and papers from prison.

Stolen Moments

It is early dusk. The horizon is darkening. Clouds are moving slowly across the skies. A gentle breeze caresses my cheeks. Hope it rains today, but after my husband reaches home. He has not taken his raincoat, u see.
I like looking out from the balcony of our flat. It faces a broad guage railway line, so every now and then a train rumbles by. In the beginning, as soon as we shifted to this flat, my kids and myself would rush to the balcony to watch the train passing. My kids wave to the passengers, and sometimes they wave back. Now of course, its been 5 years, and Im so used to it, that sometimes, I hardly notice the trains.

The other day, as I stood watching in my balcony, I heard a commotion from the tracks. A woman was crying and running along the tracks. A girl of abt 12-13 years was running after the woman, crying and talking at the same time. Another man was also following, seemingly trying to pacify the woman. What I gathered was, the woman , after some domestic tiff perhaps, had crossed her point of tolerance, and had taken the drastic decision to end her life. The girl- obviously her daughter - was alarmed, and was trying to persuade her mother to revoke her decision, while the man-her husband was also trying to make amends!

They ran along the tracks, and I stood watching them, with mixed feelings. I felt so helpless. I could hear a train rumbling in the distance. I was worried, the desperate family was now out of sight and I hoped that the woman had changed her decision. The train soon rumbled past, and I never got to hear of any untoward incident. I was relieved.

Some weeks ago, it was around 10.30- 11 pm . It was raining rather heavily, and the kids had already gone to bed. My husband and me stood in the balcony sipping hot black coffee. We were just enjoying the coolness of the air, and the sting of the hot coffee in our throats. It had been rather sultry the past few weeks and the rains were welcome. The fragrance of the wet earth was refreshing. Suddenly my husband gestured to me to look down. (We are on the first floor). Curious, I looked to where he pointed, and what I saw remains etched in my mind. Our neighbour downstairs- a woman in her early thirties, rather plump, first cautiously looked around the colony to see if anybody was watching ( she did not think of looking up) and then reassured that nobody was watching, stretched her arms on either sides and just went round dancing in circles, enjoying the rain lashing down on her. Her daughter was running behind her holding out an umbrella. This lady, who was otherwise a rather solemn, silent kind of person, here was an unexpected, amazing facet to her persona. We were enchanted by the sight, and we have never let her know that we had witnessed her stolen moments of joy and exuberance.

Life- Beyond reasoning and Logic

Below is a quote that I picked up from somewhere-

The ability to think and to reason is a gift that truly is priceless and can bring untold value to those who make use of it. There is far more to life than just reason.
Love is often altogether without reason. Life would be empty without love. Beauty exists apart from reason. One cannot live with reason alone. Greatest accomplishments flow from the mind and from the heart. Real, profound fulfillment encompasses not only mind and body, but soul and spirit also.
Reason can bring us great and powerful understanding and that includes the understanding that some of the most wonderful things in life , though they can indeed be known cannot be understood.
Ralph Marston.


Yet another quote that I picked up from somewhere- I think , I read it in Malayalam and then translated it.

The Dewdrop- reclining on the delicate petal, yet it yearns to return to the skies- the place from whence it had come- the beauty around attracts it not- it reflects the million colors in the sun- the reflection of the firmament!The limits of its beloved Eternity- how it glistens! Tears of remorse? Finally, the Sun overcome by pity, transforms the forlorn dewdrop into vapor by its heat and the dewdrop returns to its place of birth.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Vanishing from Virtuality?

A few times, I have been tempted to just go into hiding- just disappear completely from the virtual world…hide somewhere…but where do I hide from virtuality…wanted to disappear totally from everybody’s radar…to go back to being a nobody…to wipe out Ardra Vamshi…but somehow, I crouch back…still unsure…

Am still reading Fulghum. Second time round…interesting to note how words assume different meanings according to one’s attitudes, experiences- when I read it the first time- I understood it differently and this time, every sentence assumes a different hue and flavour.
Fulghum tells us about his thoughts as he gazes at his sleeping granddaughter- like how actually she belongs to neither her parents or her grandparents fully- that she actually belongs only to herself- how there would always be that “untraversable distance” between them – how to love something and to possess it are not the same thing…
And from then on my thoughts wandered…that is the nice thing about this book- since its not a continous story as such…one can just wander off on a tangent and then come back to it without a hitch… actually, it is like blogs by themselves- just random scribblings…thoughts that occur to Fulghum in his daily encounters, reflections…and so one is permitted to wander, I guess..that’s the way the book flows…

So, now getting on to my trail of thoughts- I was thinking how everything changes ( no please, am not talking abt the change in the site interface…), perhaps we could choose to use the word “evolve” to imply that changes are progressive, positive in nature..but is it always so?
The path of a change follows a curve- a starting point, then perhaps a gradual climb…then reaches the highest point…and then? Does the path remain in that level indefinitely- does it travel along a straight line from there? And would that imply stagnation? Or then does it slowly, imperceptibly trace a downward path? Is that fall inevitable? Perhaps the only difference being in different cases, as to how long it remained at the top before beginning its downward path? What are the factors that govern this path? And is the fall faster in the virtual arena? Is it a more transient situation? The initial excitement and euphoria- does it ebb away too soon? And yet aren’t the stakes involved as real as in the real world? Does decline always bring disappointment and disillusionment in its wake?

Questions remain unasked and therefore unanswered…if I’m being vague here…well then may be its just because there is always an “untraversable distance”-
Equanimity either way- is the solution- whether the curve rises or falls- would be the solution- an attitude of “so far so good”, “as good as it lasts”…fine if it does, fine if it doesn’t- aha, but who sets the rules?

“I told you so”, “Nothing lasts”, “was bound to happen sooner or later”, “too good to last”, - the words resound, echo…I clap my palms over my ears, but the voices still remain loud and clear- because the voice was from within, not without…

I return to Reality…burdened with yet another lesson in Life- take it as it comes, Keep smiling…

(By watching, I know that the stars are not going to last. I have seen some of the best ones melt and run down the sky. Since one can melt, they can all melt, since they can all melt, they can all melt the same night..that sorrow will come, and I know it…

-from the “complete stories of Mark Twain”- by Charles Neider)

Elegy to a friendship

there was a friend…
there was/is a friendship…
the friendship was born ,
nurtured with care and fun…
slowly, steadily with time…

thoughts aligned, emotions aligned
ideas shared, memories shared
solace, warmth reigned…

and such was the cocoon of friendship
comfy and secure
ideal, innocent and true…

Alas! Nemesis fell!
A crack appeared!
A fateful moment
The die was cast

one fateful day
pain shared, venom spilt
image shattered
weakness exposed
the harm was done

the wedge was invisible
the break was slow
at first escaped notice
then the doubts peeped
surely,something was amiss?
By the time it dawned
It was too late
The crack was deep…

no questions asked
no answers offered
what was there
just no longer is…

today what remains
is a pale shadow..
no anger, no bitterness
but no warmth either…

just an ache, a hollow
for what had been
but there is no going back

the crack is there
the jagged edge tears
the pain is silent
the scar shows…

but then there are memories…
kind and warm…

It rained that night...

That evening..., Mr.Vamshi and myself went out for a bit of grocery shopping leaving the puttars at home..we went by the last moment I wondered if it would rain..and decided it was unlikely- and anyway we would be back soon, I reasoned.

We picked the groceries from the supermarket - sweets for the younger puttar- to take to school- (its his star b’day today)… and then loitered around picking this and that ..we ran into two “gang mates” of Mr Vamshi- (members of his “sabha” post- dinner buckwaas session at our colony park every evening)- and just as we were to step out- it began raining real heavily…

My first thought was about the puttars at home…I asked for a polythene bag ( yup, am guilty of harming the eco system now and then) , to use as a cap for Vamshi- he had just recovered from cold and flu- and was still coughing..I had my faithful duppatta…we ran into the little cofeeday shop opposite the supermarket- to get coffee powder.our friends were also with us…the rains increased in fury and I kept thinking of how Ivan would have been- here, I was shivering with just a nasty regional shower…suddenly a real loud thunder rumbled and lightning flashed- the power would go any moment now- was thinking of my puttars..when Mr.Vamshis’s cell rang- it was the elder puttar- asking us to stay put in the shop and not venture in the rains, and return only when the rains decreased..that we need not worry abt them..he said they had the torches handy, and anyway the emergency lamp had just been repaired that afternoon…I was relieved for a while….was reminded that I had to yet cook dinner, was planning something elaborate, but now looked like I would have to concoct something from the left over rice and palak curry…mentally configured a presto recipe…

Mr. Vamshi was enjoying casual banter with his friends, and I was fidgety- there were these electric wires snaking the wall just behind me- and I imagined a short circuit going up in flare any moment- I cringed…the roads were already flooding- the barrier between the gutters and road had ceased to be and now was flowing as one…the waters were fast climbing the steps of the little coffee shop..the power went as expected..I wanted to go home to my kids…

The road was dark, only the supermarket in front had the generator switched on …people were still on the streets- with and without umbrellas, one lady was fishing with her hand into the muddy water for her missing slipper, I eagerly watched with relief as she came up triumphantly with the errant footwear …and to add to the brouhaha there were these trolley cart like vehicles carrying Ganesha idols- and hordes of men and kids pushing the vehicle- lit up by petro maxes- one even had a genrator tugging behind… they were singing aloud…fully soaked to the skin, their fervour making them impervious to the showers…

After a small discussion, Mr.Vamshi and friends decided to call another “gang mate” from our colony and request him to fetch us in a car…and amazingly, this other friend (God bless him) had been expecting us to call any time because he had seen us leaving without any rain gear…,- by now the waters were knee high (er…my knees- but probably calf- deep for the not so pocket sized homo sapiens)…meanwhile Mr. Vamshi went into the supermarket and requested permission to leaveing the bike behind in the parking space- ( we knew them well) and handed the keys over. The shop owner asked us not to worry aand even offered that once the rains stopped, one of his boys would drop the bike back to our colony…and he need not take the trouble to come back later for the bike… soon, this friend arrived in the car and all of us plodded in the dirty slush, got into the warmth of the car, and sped away to our warm homes…the power returned just as the car arrived…

On the way to our colony, there is this strip of no man’s land ( or mebbe, it belongs to the Municipality) where there is this long row of slums…construction labourers live there, and I just thought of those people huddled up in their dwellings- wet and dark..with frogs and reptiles and arachnids plodding around…I shuddered in the warmth of the car…

And thus we reached home, and I find my puttars happily playing chess oblivious to everything…
It was still raining cats and dogs outside…and I was glad I was not near Ivan… we changed..and then set about rustling up dinner- it was “palak rice” with different fry- ums (vadaams), and curd chillies…

Later, when the fury of the rains had abated, two boys from the supermarket delivered the bike safely and handed over the keys…


While in school, we had this music group, and one of the songs we were rehearsing to sing for the FM radio in Dubai was the old-“jaago mohan pyaare” from the movie “Jaagte Raho”- well after the first and the 2nd stanzas each there was a small humming bit, but after the 3rd stanza the humming was replaced by the flute…so whenever we reached the bit after the 3rd stanza, our sir- Mr. Sen would mouth soundlessly-indicating to us that we had to keep mum- and invariably every time this bit came one of us would erupt into giggles morphing into guffaws. The Sir was quite nervous whether we would repeat our guffaw bit instead of the flute at the recording studio( it was a live program) , but we barely managed to scrape through without calamity! We had resolved not to look at one another during the recording…but the guffaws did come- after the microphones were removed!

And while in college, I used to entertain my classmates with imitations of yesteryear actresses in Malayalam- - and I was called “Malayalam drama company” fondly by my admiring classmates - Had no further acting experience that is if you left out the daily incidents of feigning illness, innocence- as the requirement may be- to your hostel warden( when one skipped the boring assembly) .

Well, back to the story- yeah, so one of my fans-oops- classmate was chosen to play the role of “KaRuthhamma” from “Chemmeen” - by late Thakazhi- in a 5 minute extract for the College function to be attended by the author himself- and guess what she did- seems they were looking out for “KaRthyaayani” from the book “eNnippadikaL”( meaning –stairs”) – again written by the same author. And my friendly classmate suggested MY name!! I was aghast but could not back out- Its another story that I went along to enjoy the experience and discovered that I loved to act on stage- still grateful to that friend who was responsible for this episode in my life!

Yes, so in this enactment of the story- KaRthyaayani had to say to her husband-
“NammaLude moLude thalakkuRi pannikkar thaNNittundu”
( the astrologer has given the horoscope of our daughter)

and during the rehearsals- I slipped on the “thalakkuRi” bit and said “bhagyakkuRi” which meant Lottery ticket!
And yes- the inevitable followed- everytime this dialogue was around the corner, my “husband” ( another girl) and me would explode into not gentle giggles but explosive guffaws- but thankfully on the Dday- we were too nervous to laugh and everything went smoothly without a hitch- or the great author would have had a heart attack!

Acted in a couple of dramas more during my college life- one role was that of a “ghost” speaking to her mother after her suicide-the character I essayed had become a drug addict because of gross neglect by her too busy parents. I had to leave my hair loose and wear white sari- and I still r’member one Miss taunting me- Ardra- you don’t have to wear make up for this role eh? – alluding to my Dracula tooth…grrrr…but then Moushmi Chatterjee, Shashi Kapoor all look so good with that tooth! Yeah, so you know what I’m trying to say…

My glorious career as an actress came to an end when they asked me to scream, moan and groan for a radio drama- the character was supposed to be in labour! Needless to say, I backed out…did not want to risk erupting into explosive Guffaws…

Monday, January 17, 2005

Lullaby memories

Today I was reminded of the time when I used to sing lullabies to my kids when they were babies- I would sit on the floor, my back resting on the wall behind, my legs out stretched with a pillow, and my baby , I would lay on my extended legs- I would have decided it was time for him to go to sleep, because I had unfinished chores waiting- and thus having my baby gently tucked up on my out stretched legs, my hands clasping the little palms, I would set forth belting out all the songs I knew- not necessarily lullabies always- any melodys would serve the purpose as far as I was concerned-( I remember songs like chura liya tumne jo dil ko too featured in this lullaby repertoire- ) and all the while I’d be rocking the baby to and fro on my legs- the songs would be in Malayalam, Hindi and a few in broken Tamil too- when I was at a loss for the lyrics- la- la- la- la would be substituted- Needless to say I forgot the hapless neighbours, but got to say to their credit, never received a complaint or a notice to quit our flat- the lullaby concert would go on and on for more than an hour sometimes, simply because I was enjoying listening to my voice to the hilt, irrespective of whether my baby was asleep or awake. There would be little breaks in between because my baby would be gazing wide eyed at me- sleep farthest from his eyes- and I would have to molly coddle him, talk to him in gibberish to which he would gurgle back heartily- and sometimes even reply back in gibberish- and after our little conversation I would go back to my attempt to singing him to sleep.

And finally when my feet had gone to sleep too, and I was reminded of the piled up vessels in the sink, the half cooked sabji in the cooker, I would stealthily pick my sleeping baby, tuck him cosily in his bed, with pillows all around for added cosiness, kiss the chubby cheek, gaze fondly at my sleeping angel for some precious moments and finally tiptoe to my kitchen to finish my chores. Less than five minutes would have passed and my jigar ka tukda would be wide awake bawling his head off for all he was worth- all efforts of a good hour and more gone up in smoke- awww… and if the door bell buzzed when my baby was sleeping- I used to get soooo angry…

And then there were the times when I would have run out of my stock of songs and my baby would still be wide awake, and I would have been exhausted… he would have decided that he had enough of the drama/concert and he would give me a solid yelling and I had to resort to other means of placating him…

And today my elder “baby” is almost 15, he is sporting an incipient moustache- his voice cracks and squeaks, especially when he is angry, and we end up laughing together- and I think I’ve forgotten to sing…

post script to my last blog- Hidden vestiges of suppressed superstitions

That story was a creative bent to similar incidents that I come across in daily life…it is sometimes requests for money, clothes, anything- and when one accedes to the first request, one is sure to be accosted with a list immediately after with all the right pitch and carefully worded manipulative vocabulary- I have been exposed to many such situations- and some of them have taught me to say “No” .

There was this company selling educational kits- they made it out to be something like getting this highly helpful kit for your children and if one felt like it, one could use it to help the neighbours kids at a “nominal” rate- a few of us enthusiastic mothers hopped on the brigade, and LO behold- we are directly being “trained” – we were recruits already without our knowledge!! We were being taught to swoop upon potential clients- the kit turns out to be a huge, colourful, flashy booklet with specific pages devoted to how to handle difficult clients, the various possible excuses ( like stalling for time, or having to ask the husband- they had it all planned, charted out and ready with the counter arguments!!!) …they were teaching us specific phrases, expressions, and even tonal modulations to use!!! I was so put off with the blatant misleading , and for the first time I found it in me to question their modus operandi- and the person who had been all milk and honey changed colours in matter of seconds- she morphed into this patronizing, condescending individual, I was shocked. Of course the hard core professional that she was, she managed to regain her plastic composure in a matter of minutes, but we had already a glimpse of the ruthless leader!

We were asked to sign papers which stated that we became official spokespersons for the particular company, and when I refused to sign it, she assured me that by signing the papers I was not bound to do the canvassing. I refused to sign saying I had no intention to lure prospective clients, because the very method by which they tried to lure customers it self went against my grain- the product by itself may have been good, but was too expensive and according to me what put me off was the way they went about securing clients- the wordings, sentences were all grossly misleading…such measures tend to prejudice one’s mind wrt marketing.

And this is not restricted to jus the high class marketing alone, I used to have this flower woman come almost daily at my door and she would try to make me buy flowers with continous, repeated, plaintive pleas… that sumangalis HAD to wear flowers in their hair, wear bindi at all times- it was inauspicious otherwise-
all because I had bought flowers from her a couple of times, not because I wanted them, but for her sake…

And then there is this terrible thing of ‘The evil eye”- every minor or major mishap is ascribed to the evil eye… I don’t really believe in them and yet there is this niggling fear when others keep mentioning it …and that is what I meant by hidden vestiges of suppressed superstitions! J

Here, they want me to wear flowers in my hair, always wear a bindi on my forehead, make those rangolis at my doorstep… irrespective of whether I want to or not. Let me mention that I appreciate the art of rangoli making , and have even admired the ladies getting up early and making the beautiful rangolis- I have even joined in making those beautiful colourful ones during the margazhi months…what bothers me is the expectation of others to do it because not doing it was WRONG! Believe me, I have been repeatedly asked to perform these rituals by the mother of my kid’s classmate, by my friendly neighbours and by my assistant(maid servant) and of course I politely evade. They expect me to conduct all the rituals that I do not believe in…and they have no compunction in educating me- while I respect other’s traditions and beliefs, I certainly resent being expected to follow the same…just because I do not take the trouble to enforce my lack of conviction does not mean I’m open to discourses on my non conformity. I am not interested in explaining my stand, because I believe in individual freedom of practices whatever that might be…I do not look down upon others traditions, but please I should not be expected to start following new ones that I am not comfortable with.

Hidden vestiges of suppressed superstitions

Lata flung her duppatta carelessly across her shoulders as she heard the door bell.. there were two women at the door, one a rather apologetic looking skinny female and the other a rather prosperous looking, with a wide smile plastered on her face…uh…oh…its one of those door to door requests for donations- offerings to some renowned temple…even though she was not very superstitious , she was weary of taking risks where family health and safety was concerned..after all it was just the matter of a little bit of change -, in the face of other things, she reasoned…she listened impatiently to the skinny woman out as she babbled of the story of some brother in law whose marriage got fixed due to the Goddess’s benevolence, and how the favour had to be repaid with the help of devotees like herself…and how it would bring blessings to her, her husband and kids… if it was not a delayed wedding, it would be a long awaited off spring… she did not understand the connection but oh well..

She came back with 10 rs, they asked for 1 re more, there was none, she gave them 2 rs…and then the plump woman started behaving most awkwardly…like she was going into some sort of trance …the skinny woman explained that The Goddess was entering her and was asking for a kilo each of turmeric and Kumkumam- vermillion- and she-Lata- was The Blessed One to be chosen by the Goddess to make this offering which would surely bring untold prosperity and good fortune to her family…and if she chose not to accede, well the consequences…the threat was left un uttered and yet resounded in silence…

Now Lata did not believe in rituals, or offerings as such…she believed in the Universality of a Superior Power irrespective of religion, caste, creed, but at this moment it dawned on her that she was not strong enough in her convictions to just shut the door at the face of the two women…just in case, you see, after all the well being of her near and dear ones were at stake…how can one take the risk…her faltering was so obvious to the women they realized that here was a very gullible victim whose weakness could be well utilized… She felt exploited, emotionally blackmailed as they eked out of her some more money though much lesser than what they asked…she felt like a fool after they left…tears of impotent rage and humiliation coursed through her cheeks…as she realized that she was such a gullible fool… She could not fathom how she who had prided herself to be such a rational woman fell prey to such an obvious ploy…sometimes the fear of the unknown just assumes impractical, illogical hues…she had only herself to blame… she wished she possessed “powers” to “curse” those women who identified and untapped the hitherto hidden, illogical, irrational vestiges buried deep within her…

Sometimes education, information, technology just does not suffice in the face of illogical insecurities especially when the surroundings, the environment, the people around are also steeped in orthodox traditions and beliefs…it is a solitary struggle and nobody listens anyway…it seemed so pointless on retrospect, so silly…and yet it had happened….a long way to go, and she had thought she was almost there…sigh…may be it was easier just not to answer the door..

Songs from childhood…

Truly, when one mulls over the songs that one had heard in childhood, one realizes that the associations, connotations were so different- sometimes, I have heard and understood only half the lyrics and coolly proceeded to fill up the blanks in my memory with my own words, and today on retrospect they sound so ridiculous…
I had this classmate in school from Goa – Judy Sequeira- She sang beautifully- she had a honey voice and I heard English songs from her lips for the first time- one of my old favourites was- I r’member no singer’s name- for me they were all sung by Judy- I’m afraid my memory fails me at many a point but this is what the gist was…

Jimmy please say
You’ll wait for me
I’ll grow up some day you’ll see
Savin all my kisses
Just for you
Signed with love forever true…

Johnny was a girl who lived next door
I’ve known her I guess
Ten years or more
Johnny wrote me a note one day and this is what she had to say…

Jimmy please say
You’ll wait for me
I’ll grow up some day you’ll see
Savin all my kisses
Just for you
Signed with love forever true

Johnny was a girl who lived next door
I’ve known her I guess
Ten years or more
Her teardrops fell like rain that day
When I told Johnny
What I had to say…

Johnny, Johnny please don’t cry
You’ll forget me by and by…
You’re just 16 and I’m 22
Johnny, I just can’t wait for you…

I packed my bags, and caught a plane…

(here, my memory fails me, but the crux is that our Jimmy waits for a few years, is unable to get Johnny out of his mind and decides to go back to Johnny and then….)

My tear drops fell like rain that day
When Johnny told me what she had to say..

Jimmy, Jimmy, please don’t cry…
You’ll forget me by and by
Jimmy, I’ve married
Your best friend John…….

I r’member I was so sad about the ending , but nevertheless, somewhere inside my heart, I did think serves Jimmy right!

Other songs that she used to sing was-
Nobody’s child
I’m nobody’s child
Just like a flower
I’m growing wild
No mummy’s kisses, no daddy’s smiles
Just like a flower
I’m growing wild…

It was about a blind orphan, whom nobody wanted to adopt, all the other kids were chosen by prospective parents…I used to feel so sad, that I wanted to bring home this child…

Yet another one was-

Mother of mine
You gave to me
All of my life
To do as I please
I owe everything
I’ve to you
Mother sweet mother of mine….this one, I think I r’member the whole song…

Then there was another one which went something like-

Sunday morning, up with the lark
I think I’ll take a walk in the park..
Hey….it’s a beautiful day..

oola paloma blanca…
another one-
Goodbye to you, my trusted friend…

Running away t’gether
Running away forever…angelo…

Now my memory is getting all befuddled…

Wonder where Judy is today…

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Random leaves from my vacation diary-4

At Veega land:

Neither me nor my husband are very enthusiastic about amusement parks and all those crazy rides, but then we did want our sons to have a chance at all the fun. My BIL and co sister had been calling us over and so on our way back home, we went to Kochi and all of us set out for The Veega land- one of the best in the country I understand!

Yes, there were all these crazy rides- and I have never been able to fathom the psychology behind getting into those gravity defying contraptions- get one’s insides rocked to glory, come out looking green- and then puke for all that one is worth…but then “fun” has many definitions- Well, thank God for my Bil and co sis- my sons were able to have a blast in those rides with their cousins-my nephew and neice did not know the spelling of fear! - while myself and husband preferred to loiter around…it was drizzling now and then, the climate was very pleasant. But got to give credit to them- they seemed fine after all those anti gravity antics!! My younger one tho, was a little less adventurous. He preferred to watch some of the dare devil rides. We were happy that the kids were having fun. My nephew and neice were much younger and yet very adventurous-

Then there were those games in water, but here only I was the “wet blanket” – literally and figuratively -even hubby had a blast, while I remained standing inside the water in one place, as if I had been punished! Eventually, my left toes developed a will of their own and I had cramps in them…it was quite uncomfortable and I managed to waddle out- afterwards, I remained a shivering spectator…ahhh give me a warm hearth anyday, with book and Music- paradise, I still say…yea, definitions differ…

For me, the highlight of the trip was that I ran into 2 college mates- even though they failed to recognize me- I accosted them anyway…they affirmed that yes they were in the college during the time but failed to place me- one of them did say that yes, my face did look familiar.. not their fault- they’ve amnesia, while I’ve been the proverbial scorpio who never forgets…

But however, to compensate, at a restaurant , somebody else came upto me, and called me- and this time it was me who blinked before the face registered! Yes, another college+ hostel mate…and bonus, she said I looked the same after all these years…there! Now that made my day…
And I forgot, got a glimpse of an upcoming singer in Malayalam movies too…

The holidays are over

And now, I am back here in my household- today, my cousin sisters and kids board the train to their homes in Mumbai- spoke to them today morng- yet another vacation passes by…
School has begun…new uniforms, book binding , getting the lunch boxes ready…reminding the kids to accomplish their daily ablutions, back to routine- and by the time I’ve sent them packing- bye amme! I’m at the end of my patience…phew……and I’ve all the time in the world to rewind and reminisce…

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Random leaves from my vacation diary-3

The gang of cousins:

My cousins and their kids have come down from Mumbai- and now we’re a big paltan- I’m the eldest – the youngest in my generation is of my elder son’s age- Its fun to observe kids at play…just today I was having a game conversation - with my 3 year old nephew Govind- on his toy mobile-He has this delightful lisp too- he started speaking very late, while Aparna, my neice who is a few months younger speaks nineteen to the dozen like a grandmother and her pronounciation is perfect- yea, so Govind was here speaking to me on the toy mobile and he was very earnest abt it- spoke so well, amazing to see how much these kids observe, grasp, when suddenly he says the line got cut! I had to also fall dead appropriately , convincingly whenever he shot at me with his gun..only to be resurrected to be killed again and again..

With Aparna, we had to cook, make ice cream- keep them in the fridge, wash dishes- put a baby to sleep- she would order me and I would obey- finally aparna’s mother- my cousin sister had to intervene to let me off so that we could talk…she agreed on the condition of a story- talk abt gender role conditioning/stereotyping - but I tell you- all of it came spontaneously with no coaching.

Yesterday, we ( my 3 cousin sisters and me) went for a long walk through this village- sort of proving that the earth is round…we stopped on the way to burst these little buds on those thorny bushes which when pressed softly splits open with a “pop” sound…the kuchha roads were pretty bare..and we were talking and laughing loudly…quite oblivious to the perplexed stares of the few people loitering around .it was a long winding muddy road, and a stray dog was following us..we were a bit worried…we needn’t have for soon enough it got scared by our cacophony and hurried away…We kept yapping- forgetting age, responsibilities- our children were safe and enjoying with their grandparents- and cousins- we had a year to catch up with- stories of household- workplace (my cousin sisters are teachers) abt Mumbai life- which mainly involved travelling in the local trains, Trichy life …so much…and then compare our lives of long ago…just exchanging notes, memories- experiences- sometimes laughter, sometimes a few tears…but lots of sharing…talking way into the night, singing songs- my cousin sisters, they sing beautifully- a feeling of sisterhood – borrowing the words of another blogger-

Daily evening, my cousins and me went for long walks in the neighbourhood- yesterday, while walking, an old village woman, stopped us and asked us if we weren’t the kids at whose homes she used to supply rice years ago…right in the middle of the road- she asked every detail of our families- number of kids- why only 2…etc- u know the naïve, innocent rustic kind of enquiries which might perhaps seems too inquisitive-and in that typical village dialect, but then it was fun- we really enjoy the way sometimes villagers just stop mid way and stare away- only old people ok- some of them then ask, who we are- which family- the entire life history to be updated to the present date right there in the middle of the road, we had to also listen to her tales- about her son, daughter who recently delivered yet another girl – it was her 4th baby! We stood right there listening to her. It felt like we were playing out roles in an art movie!
Sometimes some of these elders mistake us for our mothers- for them somehow the face of the past remained frozen in their minds- they had forgotten that time had caught up with the rest of us too…there is a wistfulness, a faraway glaze in their eyes as they try to link images from the past to the scene in the present…there is bewilderment, a sense of disbelief- as if it had never occurred to them that we might evolve into adults and finally they decide that it was getting dark and send us on our way with blessings-

And now, the Gang- my cousins and me of course, decided to learn driving- we have a regular taxi here- the driver is almost a family member because, we hire his taxi for most of our trips here- we had lots of fun- we are such chatterboxes, we go on and on- chabad chabad…and guffawing away- finally Gopi (our driver tutor asked us to shut our mouths and concentrate on driving). We’re a bit nervous too- , how does one get everything to function t’gether- concentrating on the road- other vehicles, clutch, accelerator- steering- God help us! Just remembering those fun filled moments bring damp smiles into my eyes.. a cocktail of happiness and a dash of sadness.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Random leaves from my vacation diary-2

Back at parents home after the ulsavam:

Well, here in the little garden tended to by my amma, the rains have rejuvenated the plants-some of them had been scorched by the heat, and now there are jasmines, hibiscus, then those white flowers that we call- “nandiarvattom”. And then the pathway from the gate to the door is sprinkled with fallen gulmohur- those flaming orange- blossoms-

Two days later, the heat is scorching and the flowers that were strewn on the pathway have gone crisp because of the heat! They crackle and crumble at every footstep..amma compared them to “vadaam”-being put out for drying…

The temples, the tanks, over the stiles, along the narrow ridges between the fields, and when you look at the horizon you see those endless stretches of mountains…, all this on one side and when you go in another direction,you see the engineering college, the bakeries, the new dvd/cd shop, the internet cafe so on and so forth..

Actually, the summer has been pretty severe in spite of the intermittent showers, and many wells in the neighborhood have gone dry- Another sore point is, in the evenings, these small black insects come inside the house in huge numbers attracted by the lights, they cause itching on skin, they fall into food- can get quite bugging- we close all doors and windows, and have to remain with feeble lighting, stuffy and sultry..after twilight. The other side of the romantic ambience…

The monsoons are not yet here- these are just summer showers- where the earth just cools down for a brief respite- and then she goes sizzling again- like when water splashes on a hot pan…one can actually sometimes feel an invisible canopy of steam immediately afterwards-

Read a blog about that book- chasing the monsoons- I have heard of similar descriptions- but have not actually seen it happen- In KTKL, there is this hillock where my uncle and his friends used to go trekking of sorts- he used to say, once on the top, one could actually see the clouds gathering and moving and then the rains gradually catching up withyou, and then they would race the rains- it would not be raining in the front but the rains would be on their trail fast catching up-

I love to watch the rains from indoors- but am not very comfortable about the thunder and lightning- I actually love the pre and post rains mood- preferably with a good book and delicious samosas…alas, a wind blows in the next village, the power and telephones conk out here!

This time amma and me did not get much time to talk books- the kids were busy teaching their grandmother to use Powerpoint, word, Ileap and needless to say she has become an expert..

Trip to Guruvayur:

We left for Guruvayur- it was quite a rainy day, and the noon looked and felt like late evening…the temple was soooo crowded and I despaired of being able to be able to enter the inner sanctum – but then with the help of a relative working in the temple, we managed to squeeze in, actually, as a matter of logic, I do not think idols, rituals are necessary for devotion, and yet at Guruvayur- the ambience, the atmosphere gets into you and everything makes the experience special…

Sunday, January 09, 2005

A page from my diary years ago:

The follg is an extract from my diary on Nov 4th 1998:

...."I have been learning and trying to practise transcendental meditation- and I read somewhere abt a person’s personal experience of TM- as a feeling of ecstasy, of the self being wiped out- bliss, an exquisite release, dissolution of the self into an unimaginable vastness- a void- infinity.

Now, a similar feeling, I have felt just for a split second during TM, but to a greater extent while performing on stage- in a play or while dancing. The part that I played was not remarkable as such, but that I was doing what I enjoyed was the reason of my ecstasy. I was not exceptionally talented neither in acting nor in dancing, but I loved doing it.

We, as individuals evolve according to experiences, circumstances, conditioning, heredity- we learn to behave in society according to its expectations, rules…sometimes, we might put up a front so that others don’t dissaprove, criticize-

But onstage, when one portrays a character, that is not us, there is no responsibility to conform, then the suppressed energy self sort of explodes – an immense catharsis- a liberation from the confines of the bound self- I cease to be ME. It is so exquisite, this feeling- I love it!
I am aware of my lack in technical finesse, but it does not deplete/dilute my enjoyment.

Now, when I see others performing on stage, and when that artiste too performs totally involved, I simply LOVE it!

But my uncles, who are well informed in the technical aspects of Music, and a few other art forms, they opine that any art form should stand distinct from the artiste- total involvement of the artiste perhaps enhances the beauty of appreciation, but dilutes the aesthetics of the essence of THE ART. They tell me that, the artiste and the character portrayed should at no point merge into one- if it does then the art is polluted/ diluted by the individuality of the artiste! O f course, they do state that this applies only to specific art forms like Kathakali, certain Greek Drama, and some other such Art forms- Cinema, and other such media can afford to let the character and actor mingle-

As an example towards this they cite, that in s particular form of drama, while the play is being enacted onstage, suddenly in between a couple of stage hands walk across the stage holding a placard-“this is only a performance”- kind of thing to break the spell!

Similarly, in kathakali, the continous presence of the singer, percussionists just behind the larger than life characters , and when the artiste turns to the opposite side of the audience, the costume is bare , exposing the upper back of the artiste- and change in scenes is indicated by a couple of stage hands holding a curtain right in between!

For me, my enjoyment is when I am able to identify with the story, the characters portrayed, I love it when the artiste merges into the character portrayed- with his performance- I wish I could understand the way my uncles enjoy an art form, to know their definition of artistic expertise. What according to them are the mandates for an ideal performance, and why is my kind of appreciation described as diluting the essence of the art form?

My doubts are, what is the Dharma of an art form? Of an aritste, of the medium used, who draws the mandates for aesthetic enjoyment? ..."

Well, these used to be my thoughts, of course, now I am not as confused, as I used to be, because, I decided I need not break my head over it, Arts , aesthetics- anything can be enjoyed according to the whims of the individual- it is highly subjective- to each his own- no hard and fast rules abt anything, that’s all…-

Random leaves from my vacaion diary-1

The following posts are leaves from my diary abt my vacation last year:

Tomorrow is Vishu ( April 2004)- I am arranging the kaNi – the auspicious assortment- for tomorrow’s first sight on waking up- for the first time- its always been either my amma or vallyamma- this time its me, becos amma is not here, she has gone to my uncles home with my elder son… and vallyamma is at home with her amma the konna flowers, vellarikka- coconut, ashtamangalyam, rice, coins, jewellery, mangoes, jackfruit, all arranged aesthetically in the puja room- all items to symbolize prosperity for a successful year ahead- the lamp has to be lit by the lady of the house, and then the rest of the members are brought blondfolded to see the kaNi- went abt it very enthusiastically- got my younger son to help me so that he also felt Vishu creeping up…woke up early next morning- lighted the lamp, and then got achhan and younger son to see the kaNi , covering their eyes with my palms, but honestly felt as if I was playing out a drama..somehow never been very excited abt festivals…

At the temple festival..
Today is the first day of Ulsavam- the temple festival. In the mornings, elephants- decorated with the nettipattom- a long ornate plate hung down the forehead- carrying the miniature deity, circumambulates the outer precincts of the temple- the deity is Lord Vishwambhara- the Celestial God of Medicine. Then follows the Kerala percussion symphony- Panchavaadyam,. The panchavaadyam- has 5 instruments- percussion and the beat, rhythm increases in timed pattern, the tempo rises steadily and is quite exciting- the audience responds so reflexively- one can see several heads nodding vigorously according to the rhythm-

The chaakyaarkoothu- is a one man act theatre form, the artiste recites Sanskrit slokas in a prescribed raga, then explains the meaning- usually excerpts from mythology, especially the Mahabharatha- the interesting part is that the artiste has the poetic license to interpolate contemperory satirical allusions to politics, arts, even the members of the audience. In the evening, is a saxophone katcheri by Padmashri Kadri Gopalnath accompanied by A. Kanyakumari on the violin.

There are other items on the following days,( many famous artistes have performed here in the past- Padma Subramaniam, Bharathi Shivaji, Malavika Sarukkai, U. Srinivas, Bhimsen Joshi, Dr. Balamuralikrishna, Shobhana,Chitra Vishveshwaran… to name a few. )

Kathakali overnite performances begin tomorrow nite .

Got to see Koodiyattom- Sanskrit drama- today’s performance is an adaptation of a single episode of the famous “Swapna Vasavadatta” by Bhasa. Had read a comparative study about it by a famous Malayalam critic- drawing similarities to Tennyson’s “Enuck Arden” ( I’m not sure abt the spellg). Read the latter after googling it rained a bit today evening- there was thunder and lightning- but everything has settled by now- I can hear crackers outside- the intial cooling was just momentary and its sweltering now…

Then there was an exquisite dance performance by one Aswathi. V. Nair – It was scintillating- loved it. Incidentally, she is the daughter of a great Malayalam writer- M. T. Vasudevan Nair-. There was one item depicting the “navarasas” from the POV of Parvathi.

Then there were musical concerts by a duo- Ranjini, Gayathri- that was very good, another concert by Hyderabad brothers- they’re usually very good, but that day, I think they were a bit off colour. Happens to the best of them, I suppose.

The Kathakali stories were also very good- it was a bit difficult to stay awake thru out the night at times. We reached home early morning and then after finishing all the chores, all of us go to sleep until lunch time. Got to spend some quality time with my 2 uncles- mother’s brothers after a long gap-, they opine that in an art form the artiste should not become one with the character- esp in Kathakali- they say that when the artiste’s emotions filter into the prescribed script, it dilutes the technical essence of the art form. Had a nice time with them.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

My Passion For Kathakali

One of my earliest memories, I have of Kathakali is that when I was about 4 or 5 years old. I remember I had to be coerced away from a Kathakali performance in my native place- because I was running a temperature. My grandfather took me away and I remember falling into a rather restless slumber with the faint sounds of the Maddalam and the Chenda in the background from the nearby temple.

We used to visit Kerala once in two years during our summer holidays. My grandparents’ home was very near a Kathakali institution. My brother and I would daily visit this Gurukula to watch the cholliyattom- the training sessions. . The senior students or the Asans/Gurus used to explain to us the stories. We were familiar with the Mythological stories even otherwise thanks to my grandmother and from various books. Our entire family was Kathakali lovers and often there would be discussions about various performances, artistes, the nuances, the technical finesse of the art form among the elders at home, which would fall in our ears. . I must add that there used to be amusing anecdotes about drunken actors, enraged artistes who would convert the dais into a sort of arena to vent frustrations, how senior actors would rag junior artistes so on and so forth.

That we used to absorb these snippets we never realized then, but today, I know my brother and imbibed the love for this art form without us being aware of it. Kathakali just seeped through our senses, permeated our mind and saturated our being. Even today, the sound of the Maddalam and the Chenda, the anticipation as we sit on the bare ground in front of the dais at the Viswambhara temple in Kottakkal, the sight of the Kireedom (headgear) from behind the extended Thiraseela (Curtain) gives me gooseflesh.

In Kerala, Kathakali performances are usually held during the annual festivals in the local temples- mostly during the months of April- May. It is an all night performance with a repertoire of about 2-3 stories in a single night. The audience usually sit on mats on the bare ground. It becomes an effort sometimes to stay awake through out the night and nodding heads are a common sight. The early dawn stories are usually very dramatic, comic ones with sometimes lots of tomfoolery thrown in (Duryodhana Vadham, Kiraatham) , and the audience wakes up. The characters with their huge costumes come down among the audience and there is lots of excitement especially among the kids- This early morning scene, when the dawn is still dusky- and larger than life beings mingle with the mere mortals is a scene which lingers.

Nowadays, there are Kathakali clubs which conduct single stories in the evenings in some towns and cities. But the hard core Kathakali fans are not satisfied with these capsule forms of Kathakali.

Driving woes

Whenever the kids have hols for more than a week from school( Xmas hols, summer hols) , we go to this village in Kerala, where my parents live. If my husband is too busy with work, kids and me, we go by train- it’s a long 7-8 hour journey- fun if the train is not too crowded, but it usually is, being holiday time.

If DH (V) has time, then we go by car. We first drop Vallyamma ( my ma-in-law) at her mother’s home, then resume on our journey. V leaves us in my parent’s home, and returns the day after. He leaves the car and comes back by train and we travel back when he comes to fetch us after the hols. (We have to haul back coconuts, vegetables, plaintains, chips- most of the booty are distributed among neighbours and friends.) The car stands idle like a white elephant until then. We go by taxi or bus for local travel . I have been taught (?) to start the motor so that the battery does not conk out, my kids get in with me giving directions, and I end up calling our regular taxi driver to boot the battery.

Since the time we bought it, V has been asking/ telling/ ordering/ pleading/ threatening me that it would be a good thing for me to learn driving, and I have been postponing the catastrophe to the best of my capacity. He has offered to teach me, but deep inside, both of us know that could mean disastrous consequences on domestic peace and harmony!

Flash back-

So. Last time- xmas hols, we set out on our journey maike-wards- its abt 6hour leisurely drive- we stop on the way for breakfast, but we reach my place in time for lunch. I leave packing until the last minute, and it is V’s duty to close the bulging suitcases shut- mebbe with the kids sitting on it.
We start early morning, and I am armed with this huge collection of cassettes- almost my entire collection, becos, tho we can perhaps listen to only abt 5-7 cassettes in a single trip, I have often been seized with the craving, longing, yearning to hear the very cassette that I left behind, so I don’t want to take any chances.
Now early morning is strictly meant for devotional, classical based songs- no “boys” or “summer in Bethlehem”(that is a Malayalam movie with absolutely no relevance to THE Bethlehem- for folks familiar with tamil movies- the tamil movie lesa lesa is a remake of this movie) . Yes, so first it is Suprabhaatam by M.S, next Sahasranaamam by Venmani Vishnu, folld by Jayashrees “listeners choice”, anugraha/amrutham selection. Fine- by the time the cassttes go full round, the hazy, misty dawn has brightened into a sunny day-

Next comes maybe a couple of cheery songs- usually some Hindi songs- Lata’s old hits- yea, for me those are cheerful, bright songs- I sing along loud- we stop for breakfast- dosa/pongal- always-

We resume our journey-

Now, it’s the kids turn- we listen to “boys” the kids yell along t’gether-“enakkoru girlfriend veNameda- girlfriend illa vaaZhkkai waste alleva….”, then the “ summer in Bethlehem” songs follow- (ranging thru “Tera chehra”, “Alaipaayuthe”, “Minnale”, “Kandukondaein” “Umrao Jaan”, “Pakeeza”, “Kabhie Kabhie”, “Sharmilee”- some old Janaki /Yesudas malayaalam hits)- I have this problem, I get into the mood of the songs that I hear- so by the time we reach our destination, I would have undergone a plethora of emotions depending on the songs that we heard!

Now B (bada beta) wants to learn driving! C(obviously chota) of course has to do whatever big brother does. I am not very agreeable with kids handling anything meant for adults- but sometimes my orders/ comments fall on deaf ears. So B clambers to the front seat, pushing me to the edge- V has already taught them gears- now he says- get steady with steering movement- B performs admirably- C is impatient, he keeps screeching- time over (10 mints each), his turn, B does not want to let go, I am frowning, making it clear, I don’t approve of the proceedings, but nobody notices. I return to looking out of the window enjoying the wind lashing on my face.

Finally, C clambers to the front, B goes back, C just clasps the steering, and peers thru the windshield watching the road slip by, while hubby does the moving part, B gleefully comments that C is just holding the wheel, C turns to retort forgetting abt the wheel, finally his allotted time is also up, he too goes back feeling a sense of achievement at having taken us half way thru our journey.

Uh-oh, now I know what is coming, yup, V turns to me, A( that’s me) ,now why don’t u try? C’mon hold the steering, I try to evade the issue, but V is persistent, he is very earnest abt being this broadminded husband who encourages the spouse in every activity- unfortunately even when she is not interested in it! OK, I say, and I move closer to the wheel, hold the steering, V says, don’t worry, the steering wheel can’t feel pain, U can hold it, and not just touch it. Now, stay within that white line on the road- ok, I am concentrating on the white line- but my hands have a mind of its own on the wheel- and worse I sometimes forget to concentrate, and my mind slips into some thoughts not even remotely connected to driving- I want to sing- I don’t want to drive-V very patiently( read gritting his teeth), keeps guiding me- and I refuse to budge, when I see another vehicle/person coming from the opposite direction- V comments- “A, why don’t we let that poor old man live for some more days?” finally I am successful in testing his indefatigable patience to the beyond- we have a phrase in malayalam- “kshamayude nellippadi kaaNuka”- which means- to reach the end of patience -and he releases me from mine ( and his) torture. All this while, my sons have been encouraging me, teasing me, scolding me as the situation demanded- and they’re quite disappointed at my lack of enthusiasm for driving. My younger one says, even he is better than me!

Next comes- “anthakshari”- a must in any drive- all languages known permitted- which includes, hindi, tamil, Malayalam and one single Arabic song- V sings those Sirgazhi songs mimicking the voice and accent perfectly- the boys demand a specific letter each time and not those which come by turn- eventually the younger one dozes off, the elder one is still hyper, he now wants to regale us with classroom stories, prehistoric times, telekinesis, authoring a book that would put J.K Rowling out of business etc, finally I plead with him to give us a few minutes of silence and peace. He sulks in silence. I heave a tired sigh.

There is this long stretch of L and T bypass road- where we pass several toll booths- we pay the toll, the kids have to wave to the guards – and wish them happy new year!

We are reaching the border, we pass the TN-Kerala margin, the hoardings are now in Malayalam- I now keep the “Utthukkadu Venkata Subbayyar Krithis”- now these are songs ideal for classical dance- and the rhythm soon overtakes me, my husband also enjoys them- but I tend to get a bit carried away- the various bhavas- shringara, raudra, sometimes, cajoling, sometimes heartbroken, lovelorn- flit on my face, sometimes accompanied by hand mudras, however, being seated in a car does not permit me to actually enact the footwork. V thanks God for small mercies. I am oblivious to stares from drivers coming from the opposite side- I don’t care actually- I am enjoying- V is by now used to all my idiosyncrasies. I tell V for the millionth time, this time after the hols I shall definitely join dance classes- he has always agreed- but somehow I keep postponing- wondering why shud I do it again- mebbe I might after all, before all my hair turn grey.

The kids are now beginning to get restless, there are fights, blows happening in the background, when it gets unbearable, I give one yell and they’re silenced for some time.
They keep asking how much more to go, how long will it take etc.

Finally I am exhausted by the exertion- now I change the cassette to some old melancholic songs- mebbe Maraasim by Jagjit- Gulzar, folld by Hariharan’s Halka Nasha-I am in a sober mood- slipping from melancholy to slumber eventually -V complains that I have left him all alone- I assure him sleepily that I am wide awake, just pondering albeit with my eyes closed, contemplating over a few grave matters, this is a peculiar state of being - not asleep, and yet not awake- he is hurt and feeling lonely, so I shake myself awake- the music system gets its well deserved rest for the rest of the journey.

Now we get to do some talking- real talking, abt so many topics- childhood stories, past experiences, college adventures, relationships, mutual counselling, planning, prioritizing, finance (yukh), retirement and invariably we reach Philosophy, Spirituality- We are nearing our destination, achhan will be waiting on the roadside- amma will be ready with lunch- and V is feeling famished after all that driving and driving classes. Mebbe, I should learn to drive to make it easier for him. God help me and everybody else on the road!

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


Blankness all around- not blackness- just white blankness. A dead end. It has been so long now- I do so want to be a part of here- feeling so left out if I don’t interact-but no words- have I forgotten my abc’s? aisa kyon hota hai?

Days flow into one another- and I keep floating in the usual routine-sometimes I get this feeling of being frozen in a time frame- I look outside and I see a frenzy- everybody else seem to have a destination, a deadline- something akin to watching the train whiz past from my balcony- for a split second the present of those numerous passengers and mine overlap and then the next moment it is like never been. It is like they have entered the future, and I remain wedged in the past.

At this moment I am reminded of a few lines from an essay- “My watch”- by Mark Twain. The context referred to is about Twain’s new watch that goes haywire and numerous visits to the watch repairer only exacerbates the problem. After the first couple of visits, the watch which was initially racing past, gets slowed down to an amazing degree. Twain describes his predicament thus:

“After being oiled and regulated, my watch slowed down to that degree that it ticked all appointments I go to, missing my dinner, I gradually drifted back to yesterday, then the day before, then into last week and by and by the comprehension came upon me that all solitary and alone I was lingering alone in the week before last, and the world was out of sight…”

But while Twain could lay the blame on his malfunctioning watch, I have no such alibi.But I do not feel left out- I do not mind just watching- except that there is this little nook in my heart where I wonder- will my quota of such placid moments get depleted? Does every individual have a fixed quota of still ness, activity, happiness, sadness prescribed in a lifetime, am I using up my quota, will I have to pay for this placidity, this contented complacence at some point of time in the future? Have always heard, time is precious, not to waste a single moment-etc. etc- then is it a crime that I seem to languish in a sea of time? Need I feel guilty that when others are racing against time, I seem to be squandering it away? Is there some kind of law of existence that states that moments of relaxation have to be earned by hard toil? Is it possible to lend time to others who need it? Is it possible to stock time in some safe deposit for future use? And draw interest too?

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

From one thought to another-

Yesterday, the delivery boy from the groceries came over to hand over the groceries- he was a little boy- seemed abt 6 or 7 yrs old- I was amazed that such a small child was working- and then I remembered my husband telling me that a few days ago, he found a little boy lying on the staircase landing- thinking that the boy had perhaps fainted, my husband called him- the boy opened his eyes, looked around uncomprehendingly and then just fled. My husband called the grocery shop and informed that the boy was perhaps ill and had fainted and was on his way back. Later, upon enquiry, we were told that the boy had just fallen asleep and he was doing fine.

Now, on seeing this little fellow, I was reminded of the above incident and I asked him if he was the boy who had been lying down on the staircase landing and he sheepishly replied in the affirmative. I asked him if he had been ill, and he said no, he had felt sleepy and lay down thinking he would get up soon but fell asleep and when he saw my husband, he was terrified of being scolded. I did not know what to say- I asked the little boy how old he was, he pondered for a few moments and then told me he must be around 12-13 yrs old- seeing my shocked face, he very casually explained- “akka- valarchhiyille- aadu meekka ponathinalayo ennamo valarchhiyillame aayidichhu”-( no growth- mebbe becos I used to go to graze the sheep, I stopped growing) Though I failed to get the connection, I was still too shocked to respond. Then I remembered this other boy I had seen at the petrol bunk- he had been filling air in the vehicle tyres- my husband had asked him how old he was and whether he did not go to school- that boy also looked abt 6-7 yrs, and he also said that he was around 14 yrs of age. My husband looked at him disbelievingly, and asked him- are u sure? and the boy asked him, “shall I show u my school certificate?” My husband asked him if he did not want to continue studies and he said he did not want to.

And then yesterday, as I was telling these things to a neighbour, she tells me, those kids might actually be very young, but they are made to claim that they are older for obvious reasons- now I did not know what to say-

My assistant Revathi’s ( I refer to my maid servant as assistant) eldest son who is abt 14 yrs, stopped studying simply becos he does not like school- but he is so mechanically inclined and a brilliant boy, I asked Revathi to enroll him in one of those technical institutes we have here in Trichy which helped the lower income children to learn some vocation- the fees is very low and we made enquiries to enroll him, but the child just refuses to go. Years later, it will be too late for regrets- how does one inspire and motivate children to study to be able to secure their future- I could do with a few suggestions to inspire my elder son too- he despairs that school books don’t contain lessons on space, dinosaurs, time machines- if that had been the case, I need not have worried- I am hoping he will outgrow this stage and will evolve into a responsible student. His teachers tell me he is brilliant, but inattentive and talkative! Now if only I could purchase Attentiveness and concentration! I am not keen that he should stand first in class- just a little more concentration and less of absent mindedness.

Monday, January 03, 2005

The Invisible Umbilical cord

The last few days had been hectic travel- and now I am back home- my husband and I had gone to Kochi for a 2 day visit and we had a great time. Today, I jus wanted to relax, laze away the day- so finished all routine chores- and settled down with a book that I got from my cousin this trip- Chicken soup for Mothers soul- beautiful book- some of the stories are so moving and yet soothing- and I am feeling kinda refreshed- at peace with life- and so while I was actually waiting for sleep to jus overwhelm me, but reading the many stories – anecdotes in this book not only banished away all thoughts of sleep- but also inspired me to reach out to my blog friends. So here I am at my pc, typing away!

The stories are obviously about the bond between mothers and children- personal anecdotes recapitulating, reinforcing the depth of this relationship in spite of conflicts, disagreements- each story by different people seem to me like blogs- by themselves- stories with that humane, personal element-

Reading it made me look back at the relationship that I shared with my own amma- we are temperamentally similar but different in habits, ideology. We communicate beautifully as long as it does not concern housekeeping, child rearing and basic discipline! In spite of these differences, there is this underlying communication which transcends distances and time- it is an awareness, a consciousness of being bound together by invisible threads- as if the umbilical cord was never cut off- of course we do have royal arguments, harsh words, bitter sulks- but then that is only natural. It is a confidence, a faith of being there for each other come what may- it is an understanding, a soothing sense of security, a comfort level of mutual taking for granted at times.

Many times after a real bad argument, I have retreated feeling totally desolate, lost and miserable, afraid that such things were not meant to happen between a mother and daughter- afraid that perhaps I had spoilt things beyond repair, that perhaps I had hurt amma too much with my verbal/nonverbal expressions. I would be appalled at the chasm that had just caved in and I would despair of ever being able to surmount it- I would feel suddenly lonely in spite of everybody else in the world- I would want her, only her at those terrible moments of failure. There were also other moments when I felt that I had failed her somewhere, somehow- and invariably soon enough some little thing would happen that reassured me that nothing could ever tarnish this mother- daughter bond- that whatever may be the differences of opinion, the arguments, the difficult moments, it did not matter- I jus have to utter the most beautiful word- AMME- and everything negative just dissolves-

Then there have been those moments when I faced problems from other sides, other issues, and during such moments, I have never failed to find my mother by my side, holding me, supporting me, strengthening my spirits, my faith and gently bringing me back to track. She taught me the value of relationships, the importance of not hurting others, of respecting others view points even if they did not agree with mine, the power of tolerance, the need to let go of the past- oh, the list is endless-

This account would be incomplete if I did not mention that person who cannot see the gray strands in my hair, cannot remember that perhaps I am too heavy for his lap, who forgets that his grandchildren are perhaps younger than his daughter- that inspite of the numerous occasions when I scream at him, I remain perfect. He loves to remind me of the times he carried me in his arms, of the times when he panicked becos I was sick- and I never tire of hearing it- and though he drives me up the wall with his stubbornness ( this trait he has generously passed on to me- so I am told) Yes, that’s my Achhan, he loves me unconditionally, and suffers from selective amnesia – becos he does not r’member the times that I have hurt him!

I started out this blog to tell you abt the book that I was reading, and somehow, it turned out this way- so now I dedicate this blog to the 2 people whom I love a whole lot, but cannot hope to match the love they have for me!

Amma's Mails

My parents got a pc recently and when I went home for xmas hols, my sis- in- law and myself taught Amma to use it- the net, the outlook express.

She was confident of NOT being able to get the hang of it- but she is slowly proving herself wrong and is slowly getting hooked to it- she was soooo thrilled at each new discovery and it was endearing to watch her excitement.

Initially, she wud call me to ask for some particular task and I wud try to give her directions as far as possible by phone- the other day, she panicked becos the contact list disappeared from her outlook express- and I helped her get it back! She, who was never much impressed by my housekeeping talents, now almost put me on par with geniuses! Alas! This glory is to be shortlived when she becomes an expert- which she is soon getting to be-

Whenever, I go to stay with her on hols, she wants to share with me books that she read, her interpretation, parts that she liked, and I too greatly enjoy these discussions, which sometimes become healthy arguments. So, when she used to despair of ever being able to learn to use the PC, I used to tempt her by saying that when I went back she cud always mail me these interpretations and not have to wait until the next hols, and guess what friends, now she has begun mailing me thrice some days- and her mails are soooo interesting, wonderful, so exuberant-

The other day, she mailed to me abt Kuttikrishna Marar’s ( a famous Malayalam critic) description of the Himalayas in his exposition of Kalidasa’s Kumarasambhavam- birth od Lord Subramanian- the description of course was beautiful- but what thrilled me more was my mother’s excitement. I always knew how much she enjoyed reading such books, but her thrill gets completed only when she shares it with somebody . She would read something, and then her mind would be busy interpreting it in a thousand ways, she would question the various perspectives, creative license, and all this she would relate to me with so much exuberance, and I enjoyed every bit. We had to always wait for the times when we visited each other and this waiting sometimes diluted the exuberance. Now we don’t have to wait. Of course, typing out the sentences is a bit strenuous, and she complains that she is not able to pour out the entire impact always, but we decided something is better than nothing!

Another thing that irks her in internet communication is the shortening of words- it goes against her grain totally- she says language is being ruthlessly mutilated- she hates the short forms of words- but I consoled her saying that it is convenient, faster and easier, but I don’t think she is convinced. She believes that Language is not to be made a scapegoat for mere human convenience!

She had learnt English while in school, but is not very confident in speaking the language- though she has read Pride and prejudice, Sense and sensibility, Wuthering heights, And quietly flows the Don, Zorba the Greek and many other books. She is very good in Malayalam and jots down her thoughts, feelings, opinions and ideas beautifully- last year she had been to Trivandrum to visit my uncle, and she was overwhelmed by the view of the ocean and she wrote about it, the feelings that the magnificent sight evoked in her, so beautifully- I tried translating it into English, but I found my attempt pathetic and just abandoned the experiment. And the other day, she is telling me, now your Achhan also wants to learn to use the PC, and I am trying to teach him!!!

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Fragrant Memories

Ammamma (grandmother)would have got ready an ensemble of a blouse- (the long one also called jumper- the kind that one wears with the long skirt-paavada) and a Mundu ( cream coloured dhoti) – child size, by the time we arrived home for the summer vacations. I who hated waking up early, would remind ammamma to call me early in the morning so that I could accompany Appachhan (grandfather) to the temple.

Flowers had to be plucked- thechi, chembaratthi (hibiscus), Mandaram (bauhinia) , Thulasi leaves had to be pinched (nulluka) not plucked, then assorted carefully in the flower tray-Poothaalam, to be offered to the deity.

Appachhan would emerge after his bath, and there would be this distinct sandalwood fragrance about him, He was about six feet tall, broad shouldered, sort of dark complexioned- He applied a little chandanappottu on his forehead- He was so meticulous about everything, including this spot- he would dab it with the thoRtthumundu( towel) and it would be a perfect round. He had tufts of hair on his ears, and I remember I delighted in running my fingers through them . He wore a rudrakshamaala around his neck. Slapping an angavasthram on his shoulder, he would slip on his heavy Methiyadi- wooden sandals and was ready to go to the temple. He wore only khaddar. By then I would have been ready after my bath, wearing the ensemble that Ammamma had got for me, holding the flower tray.

Appachan had this habit of tucking one end of his mundu under his left arm while with the other he held the flower tray. Inside the temple he would make the Pradkshinams- circumambulations, chanting slokas softly. I would fall in step behind him, just happy to be with him, and collecting precious, sandal fragrant memories with every step.
After the prayers, puja, he would apply the chandanam on my forehead and give me the teertham- holy water- which tasted of rose petals and Tulasi leaves.
On our way back, we would stop to pay our respects at the memorial of appachans Guru and Mentor. The walk to the temple would be silent, but during the walk home he would recount to me stories, anecdotes, recite some slokas and explain their meanings, hum a keerthanam and ask me to identify the raga-

He was quite strict and did not tolerate indiscipline or disobedience, and yet played with us and made us laugh. He had several friends, and to listen to their discussions were very informative and interesting. He was a physician and his patients doted on him. He forgot to have his lunch and dinner while tending to his patients. He joked with them, gave them courage, but did not mince words if they did not follow the treatment regimen to the point.

But as time passed and he became unhealthy due to age, he was unable to see patients, and then he began to withdraw into an invisible shell. The light in his eyes was gone, and he lost interest in living. I remember that during the last few months, several times, while in hostel I woke up restless, having seen him unwell and suffering in my dreams. Later, on enquiry, I found out that it was around the time that his toe had to be amputated due to diabetic gangrene.
I remember that fateful day, he had not been keeping good health for some days and he had sent us children to the temple because Ulsavam- temple festival was going on. I had been avoiding going into his room, because I could not bear to see him in that condition. Sometime later, somebody came to call us home, because he was very ill. We rushed back home, but it was all over. My first encounter with Death- I touched his feet and they were cold- what happened for the next few days is just a blur in my mind- all I can remember is feeling a terrible sense of loss, an uncontrollable yearning to turn back time, to have gone into his room, and sat by him while he was still there.

Today, when sometimes I breathe sandalwood fragrance somewhere, I feel his presence about me.

The Hairline difference

I remember , many years ago, I was sitting inside a bus, and thru the window, I saw a woman outside- like La Louve said-hair unkempt, clothes awry and a bunch of kids harassing her, that scene haunts me still. Seeing such people makes me wonder, what cud have been that singular instance which proved the final straw to upset that fragile demarcating margin between so called sanity and insanity?? I have felt that every individual has a certain level of eccentricities/ idiosyncrasies which can still be passed off as normal. Each of us have our own obsessions, passions, phobias, quirks, but there is something that differentiates us as normal people. And at some point, for some people- comes that delineating factor –often invisible-which tilts the scales.
Another fact is that when a person is seemingly normal, but actually has severe adjustment problems, depression- extreme mood swings, others are not able to identify that the individual needs help, and then it is even more cruel. People term their behavior as obstinacies/ and treat them with anger, contempt, while actually they are helpless.

I say this, becos I have seen somebody treated this way, and finally when she was taken for professional help, it was way too late. She was diagnosed as having gone beyond the margin long ago. The painful irony is that her relatives still sometimes refer to her behaviour as deliberate stubbornness and refusal to conform, while actually she was ill.

And worse, the stigma that catches on and does not leave even after a person becomes normal. There is a malayalam movie in which, it is believed that the male members in a family were destined to become insane after a certain age, and everyone around keeps harping on it at all times, and after the protagonist crosses that age, everybody begin reacting as if he is insane, the slightest temper tantrum, any behavioural change is taken as insanity, while actually, the said person was perfectly normal! Uff! That movie was picturised very well, the acting was excellent, the ending was tragic, and watching it was agony.

Just goes to show that actually, every individual has these subtle shades of the abnormal- like a friend said- perhaps jus a shift in the value system, as also a shift in perception!??

Scholastic Lullabies..

The following lines, I had scribbled during one of the less interesting classes in college, when sometimes, after lunch time, it was difficult to stay awake, and I would try to write/ draw something, jus so that I did not fall-bang -on to the desk. I had this other habit of tickling my nose with a safety pin and then produce this monstrous, most unlady like sneeze, my friends who were very encouraging in tapping my talents in this area, would often beg me to give a performance, and I would obediently oblige – and as most of us were almost into snoooozedom, I would come up with this violent ACCCHHHHHHOOOOOOO! Everybody would be jolted awake, and I would sit there grinning sheepishly albeit with a little pink tinged cheeks- the exertion and the embarrassment coupled!

Fingers of mine
They fidget languidly
My eyes, they droop
A strain to keep them open
Glad am I to hide behind my specs!

The sir, he sings
A monotonous song
A word here, a word there
My dormant brain picks up
No sense they make
Dryden, Horace-all Greek and Latin
Oh! To close my eyes
And recline in blissful slumber!

I jot down random words
Simply to keep myself awake
The words that I pen
Just jumbled nonsense
But yes,I manage to keep awake-

Oh! To hear the musical note of the wretched bell!
My poor ears yearn to hear
They have been tormented long enough
The long drawn out drone
Lulling me to sleepEvery second- an age
The wretched time crawls miserablyTime-
always a fickle pal
Zips past when u wish it would tarry
Creeps and crawls when u wish it would fly
My brain is dead
The words just a scribble
Resembling some obsolete script
My pen threatens to slip
From my fingers-Zzzzzzzzzzzz

Wha! What was that??
A Blessed soundShakes my torpor
Yippee! The Bell atlast!
A more welcome sound I have not heard
My eyes blink awakeI sit up straight
Fully alert mode now-

A few moments respite
Before the next lullaby!

Death- The Ultimate Reality

Is Death-The Ultimate Reality??I was reading an article on death in a malayalam magazine.Of how every death that one encounters brings memories, sense of irretrievable loss, regret, guilt.

The author-(Leela Menon) says, a man encounters an average of 50,000 thoughts in a day. She also shares the feeling of an incompleteness, a sense of not having said enough, of not having apologized for the little mistakes, of little guilts, of a void that she faced upon the death of her husband.

She relates, how inspired by a book-Unconditional Life-by Deepak Chopra, she learnt to bring positivity, love, joy, courage, devotion into her life. She concludes by saying that Memories are not always sad, they bring joy too, and Man can bring sweetness into his memories if he tries to, It is the Gift from the skies!

Upon reading this, I was reminded of my first close encounter with Death- my maternal grandfather's.I was in the final year of my graduation. I was living with my grandparents then.

My grandfather was a physician and a most dedicated physician at that. He literally doted on his patients. His patients insisted on having him initiate their course of treatment. His six feet frame emanated an ethereal effulgence, his patients believed. We, his family members have enjoyed many a privelege in his name but he was the epitome of Humility.

With age,deteriorating health did not permit him to go to the nursing home . He felt cut off from his beloved patients and his agony was apparent . I remember thinking, that he was born perhaps to bring relief to the sick and when he was rendered incapable of doing so, he withered before our eyes. The last few years of his life was perhaps very painful to him emotionally.

My regret to this day has been that I, his eldest grandchild-remained aloof to him during his last years. Simply because I did not know how to penetrate the barrier that he had created around himself. I was afraid of his belittling comments and hence avoided confrontations. I knew he was isolating himself because he felt useless- he was pining for his patients.

Appachha! I did not bid farewell -if only-I had peeked in that day- that last fateful day..But you do know that I did not because I was afraid- I could hear you groaning in the next room, but I could not bear to watch you writhe in pain-.still I wish I had- I wish I had been brave enough to sit by you, hold your hand, tell you how much you meant to me, how proud I was of being your grand daughter. 

Years later, after I was married, and my father-in- law was bed ridden, I fought my fears, my sorrow, and my mother too reminded me that I was not to withhold myself from going near him, succumbing to fear. I stayed by my father-in-law's bedside doing my best to soothe him, care for him. It was agony to see him suffer, but the presence of his near and dear ones alleviated his pain to some extent. And finally, when he left us, we tried to remember that he was released from his torture. Most of us are not actually afraid of death but of dying, of pain, of sorrow. The actual end perhaps brings a welcome sense of relief from bondage, a liberation! And to bear the loss of a dear one, the pain of seperation, is traumatic, but inevitable. Each individual has to draw enormous fortitude and courage to face such losses in life, and this has to come from within oneself.

Life - A Jigsaw puzzle?

Life is a conundrum- an enigma. The tapestry of life is like a jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes, everything seems to be falling in place, and at other times in a quandary. Sometimes there are no unanswered questions, no dilemmas, the soul is in peace. At other times, the soul is impaled by spear like questions, to which one seeks answers. But answers, there are not. Where does this path that one trudges on take one to? If one were a lone traveler, perhaps, it would not have mattered. Though in the larger picture, each one of us is alone, in the microframe, we have co travelers. If one falters, there are others who may trip, so one has got to be alert.One cannot falter. One cannot let others trip and fall.

Architectural Splendour

We left for Thanjavur on sat morn by around 6.30 am. We had hired a sumo taxi, we reached the magnificent Brihadeeswara temple, a real beautiful piece of architecture. The climate was also very pleasant. There was a Bharathanatyam dance recital by a few girls, one of them being a French girl. Frankly, I felt pretty nostalgic, and I felt this strong impulse to wear the silangai myself.
Next we went round the Serfoji palace-not very impressive. The library- Saraswathi mahal however remained closed due to it being republic day.
Then we went to Thiruvaiyyaru, saint Thyagarajars samadhi.the place was getting ready for the yearly Thyagarajaradhana festival. this place is so serene and silent usually, this time it was bustling with activity. The festival has begun and all the great singers perform during this festival and it is a real musical treat. On the last day of the festival , all the singers render the :Panchrathna Krithis: in unison , which is a sight to behold and to hear it, one feels rapturous!! ! They do relay it live on Podhigai ( tv channel) but to be at the place is something else- all small and great singers performing simultaneously!!!!Afterwards we left for Kumbhakonam.
We could not get rooms in any of the better hotels, them being fully booked, and finally we managed to secure a large room at the ARR hotel- not very good. In the evening we visited the Iravatheeswaran temple at Darasuram. A beautiful temple, the architecture was again beautiful.This temple was water logged tho and seems excavation is still going on. The temple was very crowded, it being Pradosham. So was the case with the Kumbheswaran temple.
The thing is, in T.nadu, the temples are very beautiful, but tho one is positively taken in by the architectural splendour, one does not feel much Bhakthi/devotion within the precincts due to poor maintainance and utter filth around the place-a real pity.
Next we went to the Sarangapani temple, which was again quite peaceful, cos this was a temple dedicated to Krishna, and it being Pradosham, everybody was going to the Shiva temples. The Gopuram was magnificent, the silai/ idol was that of lord Vishnu in Ananthashayanam- the reclining pose-.flanked by Lakshmi devi and Bhoomi devi.We retired for the day-we were very tired but refreshed in spirit. Next day, after breakfast, we left for Nageswaran koil-just as usual- but there were several Nataraja statues- it was sort of deserted-from there, we went to Thribhuvanam- I have few words to describe the place-.serene, beautiful-the main shrine was that of Sarabheswaran- an unusual vigraha/idol- an avathara/incarnation of Durga, Kali, Shiva and Brahma- all in one- the architecture was simply breathtaking, unfortunately photography was not allowed.We visited the Rahusthalam- very crowded, everybody became tired- the climate was not very comfortable either.
In the evening we went to the famed-Gangaikonda chozhan temple-a bit similar to the Thanjavur temple- the former having been constructed by the son of the king who constructed the latter. Beautiful, very well maintained-we took many snaps from here.The next day, we went to the Ayyappan temple and the St. Lourde church in Trichy. The church is very peaceful, it was imposing-serene. One felt calm, and at peace with existence.