Monday, January 31, 2011

Bringing up L:Some Memories

I was reading this and giggling, when a momentary thought crossed my mind.” What if Amma actually wrote a blog, (gulp) about her experiences?Bringing up L -The first twenty years (gulp and a cold sweat)?” And I instantly had an answer .I shuddered in the envisaged ignominy. For sure, she would not have a bloggers block after a few episodes. Of course, she would have many things to say, about me. And mind you, unfortunately (for me), they are all true.

When I was small, I was an absolute angel who simply refused to eat anything .I could not remember I was a wingless species of angel and hence ended up head first on the ground during flying expeditions. Most of the first seven years I had a bump on the left side of my forehead or on the right side or on some exceptionally windy days, on both sides.

Things never got better and I perfectly fit in to the following bill.

Amma is beautiful, practical and always on time (Terrible!!!).She is traditional, god fearing and everything an Indian mom is, sans melodrama (and I am full of it).I don’t know if she was always like this, but these are her traits from when I could remember. Now if you think having an able homemaker means no work for kids, why don’t your pinch yourself to reality?

I wish I could be like her. I have never told her how much I appreciate her adaptable nature, her ability to think calmly in the face of a crisis and to respond to a situation. And I haven’t told her I love her. May be I should let her. She will laugh at me probably. She knows. I know. We kind off never bother to tell each other.

Now coming back to the topic, I will tell you an episode, which is so vivid that it refuses to fade away. I told Amma about it. She could not remember.

I was probably 10 or 12.It was a bright, sunny Saturday. About 10 am .In contrast to the completely wayward life I was to lead in the future, I had a systematic life then. Saturday mornings were for revising the lessons.Well, in those days I used to finish my homework’s on Fridays. So there I sat, doing math and scratching my head, purportedly preparing for a test.

Amma was washing clothes (not doing the laundry). She hates washing machines. The one we had was sitting in the work area watching Amma giving a classic hand wash.


Occasionally she will turn around to glare at the water consuming, electricity sucking monster, the washing machine, as if it is her mortal enemy.
(When it finally stopped working, I’m sure because of underuse, I think I saw a smile linger around the corner of her lips which mouthed” Perish in scrap yard, Ogre!”.)

“If the cost of 7 m of cloth is Rupees 294, find the cost of 5 m of cloth?” I read out aloud followed by more scratching of my little head.”Hmmm, this is tricky”, I said and counted the number of problems Amma had set for the day. My tiny eyes popped out in dismay.There were a lot more to go.
Two nature calls, 3 water drinking breaks and one phone call. I had done everything but study in the past one hour.Sadly, breaking my heart the truth dawned on me, I was not going to get time to cycle. I pouted.

I looked longingly at my blue BMW cycle. (Well, it had stickers all over it that read “BMW”).It sat there inside the house, on the side of the open window, gleaming and glistening. The blue and white tassels on the handle bars flapping in the wind.
Amma had painstakingly dusted it until it shone.

“What was the point in having a cycle which you can ride only half an hour on weekdays and one hour on weekends?” I asked myself moving towards the cycle and sliding my finger over the seat. “Oh! The dreams I had, to ride on meadows and valleys like the children in Enid Blyton’s book. Chasing butter flies and feeling the breeze.” I checked for the noises from bathroom ,convinced Amma was still engrossed in washing, sat on the cycle and started pedaling backwards.(Off course duffer I couldn’t ride the bicycle inside the house, it would leave tell tale mud trails.)

I imagined I was one of the “Famous Five”, Anne probably, not George, I was too feminine for that. Then I thought of being Aamir Khan in “Jo jeeta wohi sikander” and pedaled furiously to win the race. I sat there dreaming about cycling in actual roads not here like this with the window curtain fluttering over me as the wind blew from outside.


I squirmed in shock and then after five long seconds in excruciating pain. There was a tingling sensation on my back, smoke shot out from my eyes. I counted three stars and two blue birds.
No one needed an explanation, the stimulus and the specimen, knew exactly what the cause was and what the response should be. The perpetrator of the resounding thump on my back, without even uttering a single word of admonish, trampled her way back to her temporary world of fabrics and detergent.
I silently stepped down from the cycle and sat at my designated seat.

I read aloud as if in trance,“If the cost of 7 m of cloth is Rupees 294, find the cost of 5 m of cloth?”…
Sometimes actions are a great deal louder than words. Talk about volumes spoken without words and just gestures, especially between a mother and child.
Yeah, when anyone says things on these lines, I can feel a tingling sensation down my back.

The Footnote:
Honestly, after writing this and this, the humour (self-fun-poking) turf beckoned me. Narcissist, that I am, could not resist the chance to write about myself.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Strange are Thy ways..

The train was late, a full hour late for the record. I was bristling in irritation. Cursing the Indian Railways, I tried to delve deep into Suketu Mehta’s “Maximum City”. I was reading about the narrator’s experiences in getting a faulty plumbing fixed that the seat opposite to me got occupied. To my immense luck that day, I was not surprised not to find a youngster in the seat. On the contrary, it was a man old enough to be my father. He was tall, I noticed, sporting a neat white shirt and grey pants. The shoes were patent leather. A prominent gold crucifix shone on his neck.
” To Kochi?”He asked in crisp English.
I stammered “Yes! Well, not exactly, my tickets are for Kochi,” not used to being talked to by strangers.
I looked intently on to his face. He was handsome with his salt-and-pepper hair and a very good physique, giving him the benefit of his age that is. It was his face; it bore an ugly scar, right across his right cheek
“A rich Achayan* who probably had some business rivals.” I noted mentally.

“No”, He replied, smiling, as if reading my thoughts,” It was an accident.”
I turned a bright shade of beet root.” I didn’t mean to be judgmental,” I said looking guilty and hastily closing my book.
“Hello. I am Jeremiah George. Everyone calls me Jerry. You can call me Uncle Jerry.” He offered an introduction.
 Still dazed out of the embarrassing behavior from self, I managed a feeble introduction of myself, “I’m Radhika Krishnan” (I did not add, everybody calls me Radical Krishnan. Duh! ).

Though a planter by profession, an extremely rich one at that, Uncle Jerry was a mechanical engineering graduate. He graduated around the time when getting a job was not easy in India. A political storm was brewing in India with the emergency declaration. No matter how qualified one was; the jobs were not there. A “No Vacancy” board hung perpetually over every office.
Uncle Jerry worked for a couple of organizations as an intern and then as field engineer. It was sometime in 1979, he got an offer to join the merchant navy. He was all set to sail, having cleared the interviews and the routine health check up. “Job Ahoy!” young Uncle Jerry had screamed at the shipyard after receiving his confirmation letter.

Uncle Jerry thanked his stars and as advised by his mother decided to pay a tribute to God. On the day before sailing, when his fellow sailors decided to go for a movie, Uncle Jerry borrowed a friend’s bike and went to a nearby church. The patron saint of the church was known to be the protector of sailors. He prayed for a long time in the silence of the house of God. He asked Him to protect and provide.

It was around six in the evening by the time he left the church. The sky was dark with clouds. The wind was blowing hard. ”Monsoons!” Uncle Jerry said looking up at the sky where rain was raring to shower down. By nature, a careful driver, he drove slowly back to his lodging. Rain pelted down in big drops, not having any place to take shelter, left with no alternative, the young man continued driving. Suddenly a bright light flashed across his face followed by a clamorous thunder. Uncle Jerry was blinded for a moment, only a moment, and sometimes a moment is all it takes to loose everything. He lost his balance and fell head along on the road.

When he opened his eyes, he was in the hospital bed with his mother sitting next to him. He was in pain. More than the physical pain, the sorrow of his inability to sail hurt him the most. Many a day, lying in the bed recuperating his broken bones he cursed Lord for being heartless. If he had gone for the movie with his friends, he would have been onboard in the high seas. Uncle Jeremy thought sarcastically as he ran his fingers over the scar he was to have for a lifetime,” Lord, I had come to ask for your blessings, you blessed me for a lifetime with a scar.”

I stared at the scar and was chilled by the unfairness with which life had treated him. “To tell you the truth, now this scar is a reminder of His irrefutable presence in my life!”
Before I could ask how or why, he continued, kissing the golden crucifix,” Did you know which the ship I was to sail with was? It was Kairali, the ship owned by Assesse.”

Kairali, it rang an ominous bell. An episode every Keralite wished had never happened. Color drained from my face and a sliver of pain shot through my chest. ”Kairali…, the ship that...”

Athe Kutty**, the same ship that went missing on the high seas without a trace in July 1979.With 53 people on board, till date no one knows what happened to it.”

I looked out through the rusty train window bars, letting the enormity of the entire narrative sink in. I watched the houses, lampposts, roads and trees rush by, as the train trundled forward. “A dream job, an accident and a revelation,” I closed my eyes murmuring,” Strange are Thy ways”

Uncle Jerry called out, “Hey, we are reaching Kochi.”

Uncle Jerry helped me with luggage to the platform. He was waving at me as the train started to move,” God Bless you my child!” I waved at him, eyes moist. I stood on the platform, waving, until the train was not but a speck on the horizon. Then the rains tumbled down from heavens above, washing away the remnants of all doubts, if there were any.

*Achayan : is a term used to address elder males belonging to the Saint Thomas Christians or Syrian Malabar Nasranis, irrespective of denomination, hailing from central and southern parts of Kerala corresponding to the former Travancore kingdom.

**Athe Kutty: Yes, Child

Post Script:
Kairali, a merchant ship, which left Kochi Port, was declared missing as on July 3, 1979. No details are available as to how the ship went missing or no debris found to date. My father lost one of his classmates to the dark episode. I hope we do find an answer to this.

This post was written for:

Do not look surprised. My middle name is AmbitiuousDreamious. Okei. That was a PJ.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Acts Of God

There are days in ones life, when some seemingly disconnected sequence of events occur only to culminate into a memory that will never fade. It does not happen often, but when it does, you get a glimpse of what we call the Acts Of God.

The rain reduced to a drizzle and to a complete stop; a brief intermission in the spells of monsoon rain that raged in July. The city of Kochi and its suburbs were drenched, had acquired the scent of wet earth and we felt like twilight even in the afternoons.

We school kids had learned to have a love-hate relation with “Edava-pathi”*.We hated it because we had to drag ourselves from warm beds to cold bathroom floors to get ready to school.
I remember asking Mother,” Why can’t it rain during the big summer vacation mornings?
Mother had replied nonchalantly, plaiting my hair,” For two reasons; one; it wouldn’t be summer if it rained like this.Two.How will you play in the morning if ground is wet?”
That left me with a dilemma to choose between loosing a summer vacation or to waking up to chilly mornings. Well, we loved it because it was a season of novelties. It was the season for new bags, books, lessons and a golden chance to do rain-dance almost every other day.

That Monday evening, Father was getting ready to go out to the temple. He had waited so long for the rains to cease and it finally had. He was searching for his umbrella, “Just in case it starts all over again.” I could hear him say to Mother, rather grumpily. Mother was shuffling around closing all windows cursing the mosquitoes and muttering something about fresh air and rain.

I sat at the dining table facing the open window with their curtains drawn, my geometry book open. “If a triangle is drawn inside a circle with one side as the diameter of the circle, the angle in the triangle opposite the diameter is always 90°”.I liked that. I mean you can draw a million triangles with the same diameter as one side and the angle opposite the diameter? 90 degrees! Infinite possibilities, yet the same answer. I stared out of the window, smiling at the geometry secrets.

I could not say I had a great view out of this window. Our backyard faced the neighbors’ backyard. There was a construction going on there. The elder son of the family was constructing a house. There was a water tank at the ground level, filled with water for construction purposes. I knew all this. We had no walls between the compounds then. Instead, between the two houses we had a municipal canal, about a foot wide. I have never liked the canal much. In summers, it was all slimy and in monsoon, it was like a powerful stream that flowed so fast that the poor water snakes floated by instead of swimming.

I heard a rattle from the neighbors’ compound. Smiling, I lifted my head from circles and triangles. There he stood, my cupid faced friend with black hair and dimples on his cheeks. He was about two at that time and was one of the most charming kids I have known. I remember, even now, he wore a lemon yellow sleeveless cotton shirt and black shorts. He smiled at me and waved proudly his playthings, an orange colored rattle and a tea strainer. I waved at him, a little surprised that the kid had managed to come to the construction site alone.

He sat down on the wall of the tank with his plump legs dangling into the tank looking immensely happy about the whole thing. The little thing took the rattle in his chubby hands and threw it into the tank. He looked at me and chimed,” Fell down.”

Now my 12-year-old mind could not work out that the little man was already in treacherous zone. So I simply told him,” Where’s you mom? Call her.”
He made a hand signal to the general direction of his home,” Mom there.” And before I could say anything slid into the tank.

I saw him sliding down into the tank. I froze. What had the kid done? He was going to drown. This was not a joke. I jumped off my chair, nearly falling over myself. I panicked. I ran, stopping my Father who was going out. All I managed to say was.” You cannot go.” Father gave me a quizzical look. I added quickly,” The baby fell into the tank.” I guess I looked like a scaredy-cat that Father knew I was not feigning.

Mom hearing this had already opened the back door and within seconds, Father had jumped over the canal into their compound. Later he told us, when he went near the tank, he saw the kid slowly going down into the depths. Like a porcelain doll, only that he was human. Father jumped into the tank .The water was high, unto his chest. Father took a deep breath, went under water and picked him up. The kid spat out some water and smiled. We all sighed in relief. The moments of torture were over.

Then came running the kid’s mother with her younger child in tow, bewildered.Her husband was out of town and the elder one had sneaked away whilst she was giving the younger one a bath.

Father had to wait for the next spell of rain to wash over to go out. He did go to temple to thank God and had come back home drenched, but cheerful.

Fifteen years later, I was home for a vacation. As mother and I were walking to the temple, we were stopped in the middle of the road by a tall, lean young man.” Do you remember me?” He asked smiling. That smile, I could not have forgotten. He bid us goodbye and walked away promising to pass to our regards to his family.

Mother said reminiscently,” I still do not want to know what would’ve happened that day, if I had closed those windows at five as usual, if you weren’t sitting there in front of the book, if Father was not at home. I shudder at the thought.” She was right. If I had not been pretending to be studying and was watching TV, I would not have seen him fall. If Father had gone out, what could we have done? I knew the obvious answer to every question my mind voiced. The young man I had met on the road today, I would never have seen him. All my life I would remember that tragic event and mom would cry every time she remembered it.

I do not know if it was a miracle. Nevertheless, it was his destiny to live and ours (Father’s and mine. Mother’s also in a way because she had forgotten to close those windows) to put together his lifeline that was almost prematurely severed. It is days like these that help one slow down and ponder on, how fragile we humans are.

* Edava Pathi: The onset of monsoon.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Another New Year,Another Set of Resolutions..

 This is the time of the year when we make new resolutions over the old ones, and promise ourselves (As always) to keep them as well. Old ones lost some were along Jan and Feb last year. However, are new ones different from old? Except we up over targets(Let’s say the ones like I’ll drop my weight to 50 kg last year to I’ll drop my weight to 55 Kg this year…Or I’ll spend only $100 on books to only $150.All the targets were raised by 50 units.)

Even I made resolutions. Nevertheless, my cheeky little conscience always had something to say. Call it my alter ego, I wish she had been a little more elegant and sophisticated.Okei! Let us settle for civilized may be? It is nice to have conscience, which is the amorphous reflection of an angel in white with wings, and halo in place. Mine has a terrific sense of right and wrong. The impertinent imp had her voices well heard in my head when I listed down my resolutions for this year.

Following is the excerpt from the highlights of the resolution making event.
(Psst Psst.She voices in Italics.)

  1. Health: I will reduce my weight to 55 Kg from.Err..Nevermind.So for this I will go on fruits and vegetables diet every month. Forfeit my cravings for pizza and chocolates and fried food.
55! Gosh.I remember it was 50 last year. This is not getting anywhere. You are going to give up on all junk, are you?. Salman might stop showing off his body altogther, but you will never ever quit on junk. I can give you one to add
1. I will make only realistic targets in life.

  1. Personality Development: I will learn a new language this year. Ahoy! May be I will learn French, Spanish, or German. That is a fantastic one. Realistic too.

Huh! Learn to speak proper Hindi and Malayalam first. One proper descriptive sentence in each language that is all I ask for. I bet you cannot do that.
2. I will understand my culture first before venturing far.

  1. Beauty: I will grow my hair long. I will do a hot oil bath every week. I will do hair spa every two weeks.I will stick to my curls and will not allow any irons near my hair.

Ha!Rapunzel! Tada! My Lady, your hair will grow if only you would not frequent the hair salons to apply scissors instead of oil and crème. Moreover, what was it about oil bath and hair spa? Buhahaha.Please spare me! I cannot laugh anymore.
Appreciable take on hair smoothening/re-bonding. My take:
3. I will brush my hair to untangle my short tresses everyday (Ha! This is better!) or how about I will wake up at 6 so that I can dry my hair before I go to office and hence will not end up looking  like a Pomeranian that fell in to a pool.

  1. Nurturing Skills:  I will learn to play a new musical instrument. It will soothe me and will help me distress. It will fill my life with more music and I will fly in the valleys of ragas.

Check Check. Reality checking. It is not going to soothe anybody .Did you forget how your vocal music teacher squirms in his seat whenever you sing the wrong keys? You give him headaches after each class so that he has to take 15 minutes break after your class to get over the sadma or shock.Okei!don’t make that doleful expression. You are not exactly the, hmmm playback singer material. No more comments. Next.

What next? This is it. I am not saying anything more for you to make a comment.

Thus ended, much prematurely my list of resolutions. I know she is true most of the time. She is my realty check and I know she helps me bring my foot firmly on earth while my mind wanders in Eutopia.

So here’s wishing Happy New Year to All of You!
(Don’t crib about the greetings coming in weeks late; hey! we are still hot with our resolutions and I have even paid my fees for my Veena Classes.And I’m even having Broccolis for dinner.)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Cosmic Revelations

God has a sense of humour*.Period.

Act I – Karma

(Back ground music playing “Chale Chaiyya Chaiyya” for a good thirty-seconds.Then ZOINK.The sound of TV being switched off)

Teenager: “Dad! How could you just switch it off? I’m watching it!”
(The teenager yells jumping out of cocoon state to a fire breathing dragon posture.)

Dad:”I have told you a number of times not to switch on that idiot box and sit in front of it the whole afternoon!”

Teenager (Sulking):“Hello. It is vacation. It is summer. Together summer vacation and I can watch TV as much as I want!”

Dad: “Vacation means it is time to relax and enjoy. Go out and meet friends. Play for a while. Not sit here and fill the whole environment with negative energy.”

Teenager: “Negative energy? That is news to me. You mean my switching on TV for a few moments fill this room with negative energy. If you are stressed at work, please don’t take it out on me.”

Teenager walks out.

Dad:”Oh God! With the TV and its volume, it simple fills the room with noise. After a hard day at work, the quietness of one’s home is more soothing than anything in this world! Girls these days, I tell you...”

Act II - Karma-phala

(Back ground music playing “Sheila..Sheila ki Jawani.” for a good thirty-seconds. Then ZOINK.The sound of TV being switched off)

The Husband:” Hello! I am watching it. Are you jealous or something?”

The Wife:”Jealous? My Foot. How many times should I tell you I need some peace when I come home? Is this is a movie hall or is there a country fair going on here? And the volume! Are you deaf?”

The Husband:” Come on. You are not being fair here. What should I do then? You come late from office. I have nothing else to do but watch TV.”

(Husband walks off shaking head in disdain.)

The Wife (Shouting at the side of the stage through which husband exited):”I have a hard day at office. Then it takes me hours to get back home. There are hundred chores to finish before I sleep. Dinner for starts! All you can do is sit there without even removing yours socks and pollute the house with shrills from the TV”

The Husband (sounding far off and muttering):”A bad day and she takes it all on me. Thesis on polluting effects of Television. She should get a Nobel for that one.” (Humming Sheila..Sheila ki Jawani.)

The Wife: “I heard that. Now nothing can take away the soothing effects of a calm living room. When will he ever understand all this?”

There are no prizes for guessing who is the cosmic Prani stuck in this endless cycle of karma. This can be taken as classic example of dormant genetic make up becoming dominant after the larva approaches maturity or full growth.Or simply call it the Divine Retribution. Sigh. Now that you all have guessed the identity of the humble cosmic prani, one small sentence of free advice**. Listen to your parents, for you know not what the future holds.

*Terms and Conditions Apply. What did you think? Nothing comes free. Talking of sense of humour, His comes laced with copious amounts of sarcasm and wickedness that keeps one wondering how thin is the line between God and Devil.
**This one is completely free. Cosmic Gurus are above Lobh, Moh and Maya.
***Three stars never marked anywhere in the script. Life is always in multiple acts. The stage remains the same just that characters evolve.-Cosmic Guru