Monday, July 27, 2009

An experience of a Lifetime!

When R and M first mooted the idea that I participate in the coming car rally , I was incredulous and simply said NO. I didn’t even pause to give it a second thought. I could not, I would not. I had no idea what being a participant ( that is other than the driver ) – entailed and I wasn’t even curious. Experimentation, adventure was never me. Sticking to comfortable, familiar terrain – literally and figuratively has been the story of my life.

R asked me again some weeks later when she was giving out the application forms. The ‘NO’ came out easily again. By then I had heard that the non driving participants needed to do ‘navigation’, decipher ‘tulip’ charts, and my Nemesis – Math. M was not one to take a No that easily though. She asked me on Face book, followed it up with sms, and now, I had to find some plausible excuse that would persuade M off my case. I pleaded my poor navigation skills, my Math phobia- she had a solution for all my misgivings. There was no shaking her off. Besides I was touched by her affectionate persuasion.

I was beginning to think on different lines now. Joining this exuberant, friendly NIE team here, two years ago had changed my life in more ways than I had ever imagined. Those who know me from my pre NIE days would be able to understand and appreciate the changes I’m talking about. And so I thought- why not? I called up my other friend C – a veteran rally participant- and she was so enthusiastic about my participation that she convinced me it would be great fun. I got back to M and said that I was game. She assured that it would be a good experience.

I spoke to V ( my husband) and he was totally thrilled about the idea of me participating in the rally. He wasted no time in announcing to any one who cared to hear about the great event- not the rally but his wife’s participation in it.

I called up R, and before I uttered a word, I could hear the smile in her voice as she said, “So A, you’re joining the rally. M has already informed me!” She too reassured me that she’d find me like-minded team members and that was it. There was no turning back.

After Saturday NIE sessions, B took me to her beautiful home, lovingly stuffed me upto my nose with a delicious lunch and after a most relaxing siesta, we set off for the briefing for the rally.At the briefing session, I was awe struck by the sight of so many up beat women of all ages.. I observed the proceedings with much interest.

This is an all women car rally- the TDS rally- Time, Speed, Distance which is NOT a race, as they kept reminding us. Each team comprised of 3 members - the driver, a navigator and a passenger. There were 48 teams in all. We were supposed to cover about 77 kms in 3 hrs, to stick to the alloted speed, strict following of safety rules, remembering to wear seat belts, following the route chart, fill up a time chart and questionnaire en route and most importantly not get lost. The best part was , my partners- the driver and the other person, (whom I was meeting for the first time) seemed to be equally clueless as to what was supposed to happen. But that minor detail did not dampen our spirits. Besides, the person who gave us the briefing did say that, as Novices, if we were unsure about the proceedings, we need not break our heads about the calculations and stuff, just stick to the tulip chart and the speed limit and enjoy the whole experience. That sounded good enough for us.

Next morning, my husband and son accompanied me to the starting point. R and M welcomed me exuberantly and I was happy to be there. My team members soon joined me and there was lots of cheering and Best wishes being thrown around. All the participants wore the T shirt and cap and soon we set off on our respective vehicles with our kit bags.

My team members and I were more concerned about not getting lost than anything else and so we kind of laxed up a bit about doing the Math and stuff. The route was mostly through the outskirts of Trichy- through mud roads, with lots of animal population, villagers looking askance at a caravan of cars crawling through their apology of a road. We managed fairly well initially and felt pretty relaxed and confident. However further down the route, we did get confused. We kept going back and forth searching for a particular deviation in the route but never found it. We ended up missing out an entire stretch and reached back at the starting point first. We were a trifle embarassed at reaching back much ahead of the expected time , but the organizers welcomed us with much applause and asked us if we enjoyed the experience. We were still a bit shaken wondering how much of the route/ how many check point marshals we had missed and so perhaps were not too voluble in our response. We had no inkling about the number of penalties we may have accrued along the way.

We had not won but my friends and relatives made such a fuss about my adventure that I felt like a winner all the way!

( R, M,C and B are my colleagues and dear friends).

Article in The Hindu

Saumya's blog

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Belated Tag...

Scarlett tagged me .

I’m to share the five things that I love about Motherhood.

Motherhood- a concept of an experience that has been glorified to the point of unattainable saintliness. An image that I have struggled to live by, to reach up to, to achieve. An ongoing journey filled with joys and travails, where I keep stumbling, picking myself up, brushing the dust off me, where sometimes the wounds do heal but the scar remains . Yet, I’ve to keep on going till my last breath- once a mother- always a mother. However, whether it be the beautiful memories or the painful ones, Motherhood is cherished like a Blessing. Every day, every moment , a new petal unfolds among the thorns. The fragrance remains…

The vestiges of motherhood was always there, intrinsic, ingrained into my soul- from the first moment I picked up my first doll:

"You were hidden in my heart as its desire, my darling.
You were in the dolls of my childhood's games; and when with
clay I made the image of my god every morning, I made the unmade
you then.
( ‘The Beginning' - Tagore)

Motherhood is a part of my essence, my foremost priority- a constant awareness which reflects in every thought, action, feeling. Like my mother says, my brother and me feels like an extension of her mind, body, soul…

Motherhood is that part of me over which I have little control. It is like I’ve climbed the roller coaster and cannot get off. Sometimes it scares me, sometimes it thrills me, sometimes I squeal with joy, sometimes I howl in agony.

Motherhood means Unconditional Love? Do I understand this word? I’m not too sure. Loving with absolutely no expectations? May be not in tangible terms but I think there is a lot of expectation in terms of emotions, feelings…

Motherhood means, confusions, dilemmas, anxieties .

Motherhood means wanting desperately to do right by your children, not ever going wrong at any cost.

Motherhood means wanting to be fair at all times.

Motherhood means worrying endlessly about seeming biased, being biased.

Motherhood means being paranoid about having caused hurt inadvertently.

Motherhood means aspiring to rise above being a mere human with flaws and frailties and achieving saintliness in being able to wipe clean from memory all bitterness, hurt and pain.

Motherhood means the regular guilt trips , constantly judging oneself , torturing oneself about having felt certain emotions which are not associated with Motherhood at certain moments.

Motherhood means being able to identify situations when to invisible and unheard, and when to be there with no questions asked, no ‘I told you so’s’.

Motherhood means being unable to hear others speak unfavourably about your child.

Motherhood means glowing with pride at the achievement of one child and aching for the other one at the same time worried whether he will feel insecure.

Motherhood means remembering the absent child every moment, especially when you make his favourite dish, watch his favourite movie, hear his favourite song, and most painfully when you hug the other child.

Motherhood means wanting, willing, praying for The Best for your child in spite of anything and everything.

Motherhood means, watching, waiting, Learning...and accepting.

Motherhood is one long, unending Prayer.

Motherhood means forgetting to count…

Monday, March 09, 2009

Some Special Bonds...

Talking only about appachhan feels incomplete.

My earliest memories of my ammamma (maternal grandmother ) is that of cuddling by her side in the darkness pleading for a story. She tells me that I never tired of hearing about Prahlada. Another memory is of a long winding rhyme about a fly who goes around asking different creatures if they knew what its name was. On each visit to a different creature the list of the previously visited animals have to be recited in the correct order before the question is asked. Finally at its last stop , upon being told of its name as “eecha eecha ponneechha”- the fly is so delighted that it laughs to death! But of course the rhyme story does not sound gruesome at all when recounted.

We used to live in Bombay then and I would wait eagerly for our vacation trip to Kottakkal to my grandparents home. Ammamma would’ve kept ready the blouse and mundu ensemble for me to wear when accompanying my appachhan to the temple nearby.

Vacation also included the not so pleasant task of learning the Malayalam script. Schooling in Bombay meant no Malayalam in academics. However it was this routine inculcated by amma’s and ammamma’s insistence that helped me learn to read and write in Malayalam for which I’m immensely grateful today. (And today, we grandchildren faithfully ensure that our children also learn the Malayalam script during the vacations much to the latters’ chagrin.)
Afternoons were not meant to be slept away and it was time for sewing, hand embroidery. Reading was another habit which was gently enforced but that was a delight anyway.

The tri-sandhya neram - twilight hour would be ushered in by – ‘naamam chellal’ -the loud chanting of shlokas by us grandchildren sitting crosslegged in front of the ‘vilakku’- lamp in the puja room. The then youngest would also lisp along the complicated Sanskrit words enthusiastically. Ammamma made me learn a couple of chapters of the “Narayaneeyam” and the “Mookambika sthothram” . She would ask me to write the shlokas down along with the meaning and then chant it until I had it by heart.

Ammamma would write to me in English in the beginning until I learnt to write in Malayalam. Those days of no internet , email and even limited phone access, amma saw to it that I kept in touch with my grandparents and cousins by making me write letters to them.

When I joined college in Kerala, it was to my grandparents’ house that I came down from hostel. Ammamma used to be very protective and took care of all my needs. She would share her life experiences and taught me many things about life and people. She would talk about books, authors, poets. She had met many famous people in her time and she would share snippets from those memories. She maintains that Humility is the most important quality that one should posess. She often reminds us that Vidya- Education should beget Vinayam- Humility.

One of her morning routines included churning buttermilk in a brass ‘kutam’- a pot shining like gold. It was a pleasure to sit by her listening to her sing softly about the exploits of baby Krishna as she churned the buttermilk. She taught me to churn as well in the traditional way.

She tells me that one recurring memory she has of me is that of me as a baby crying out piteously for her from my mother’s arms as the train chugged out of the Tirur railway station when we were returning to Bombay after one vacation.

Some bitter experiences have made her cynical in some aspects and she tends to be skeptical of new fangled modern ways. She can be quite acerbic in her reprimands.

Ammamma has been a very strong influence in our lives . She is well read and keeps abreast of current affairs and has a strong opinion on everything and does not hesitate to express it. She takes good care of her health and follows a disciplined routine. People who know her come to her seeking advice and Blessings. She gets invited to grace and speak at functions in our village. She commands a lot of respect from everybody around her. She does have a somewhat strict countenance which makes some people a little wary about approaching her. However once the ice is broken they realize that it is just a veneer.

After I got married and set up my home she has come to stay with me to help me out many times . First time was when I went back with my first born . The last time she stayed with me for an extended period was in '98. I remember how desolate I felt after she left that time. Nowadays, she doesn’t travel too far due to health issues. I cherish the bond that I feel with her. I feel warm when people remark about how I resemble her in my looks.

( At this point, I stop trying to recollect about my ammamma and impulsively pick up the phone to speak to her. Her voice at the other end gives me a sense of warm reassurance).

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Writing Prompt # 4

Rules: Take 10 minutes to write. Please time yourself. When you have finished writing, please leave a link to your response in the comments box. Have fun!

Prompt: Write about an ordinary, everyday event in your family's life. It could be something that your mother or father did every day - ironing clothes, cutting vegetables, doing puja. Or something one of your siblings did - washing the moped or scooter, perhaps. May be even something that all of you did together regularly.

Talk about regularity or routine and the first person to come to my mind is my Appachhan- my grandfather. He was the kind of person that we might describe as one could set the time by .

He was up at dawn, with the Khaddar mundu tied around his chest and no dentures. He would gaze at the pictures above his bed – that of Lord Dhanwanthari and his Guru. Then followed morning ablutions.

He would emerge after bath with the fragrance of sandalwood lingering in the air. The flowers would have been picked and arranged ( by ammamma or me during the holidays) in the ‘thaalam’ ( plate ) to be taken to the temple. After putting on the cumbersome 'methiyadi’ ( wooden sandals) he would march to the temple. On his return, he would go into the puja room, sit on the wooden platform (aavani palaka ) and chant shlokas aloud in his resounding baritone . Next it was breakfast time, after which followed a kind of ‘Durbar’ session with his friends in the adjoining hall. All kinds of topics- current issues, Sports, Arts, Politics everything would be discussed and there would be laughter too. I hardly understood what was going on but the memories and the ambience lingers with utmost clarity.

He would then change into his Khaddar shirt which kind of reached his knees. It was now time to go to the Nursing Home.

Evenings would see him writing his diary meticulously and neatly. There have been times when others have retrieved records after referring to his diary. His ‘Dinacharya’ was on clockwork mode and we told the time by the sound of his footsteps.

However, there was one thing that did not quite work for him by clockwork- and that was his lunch time. Consultation with his patients made him lose track of time and ammamma would send rice gruel/ soup or Horlicks through the hands of the house help.

More about my Appachhan :

Fragrant Memories

Death- Ultimate Reality

and one by my cousin sister in Malayalam

ഞങ്ങളുടെ അപ്പഛൻ

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sublime Experience

After reading this, I felt that I had to share my experience of Margazhi Raagam too. I had wanted to do it soon after I watched it but somehow found myself at a loss of words to describe the experience.

When I first heard about the attempt at filming a concert on celluloid, I did not know what to think, what to expect. I thought that perhaps the regular sabha hopping music lovers would not be too enthusiastic about it. However my curiosity had been piqued and anyway, I was an ardent fan of Bombay Jayashree. So when they were screening Margazhi Raagam at our place, I knew I could not miss it.

A friend arranged for the tickets and there I was waiting at the venue eager and expectant.
The screening began with no ado and it was a different feeling altogether- I mean – looking at the screen in a theatre waiting for a concert.

The lights dimmed in the theatre and the screen came alive. The backdrop, the aesthetic décor, the lighting, the sound experience - was indeed unique. And though this was not a live performance, I don’t know why it felt like an intense personal experience. Like it was only Music and the listener- everything else was blotted out.

I remember the surprise and delight I felt when how first Jayashree rendered the Khamas serenely, then followed a percussion interlude and finally brought to an unexpected buoyant culmination by T.M. Krishna!

The piece with just the Tampura as accompaniment was out of the world. If I'm guilty of using hyperbole, its only because my experience was such.

While Bombay Jayshree closed her eyes and let Music flow out of her soul-it was like she was having a personal conversation with the Divine and we were the lucky eavesdroppers. And Krishna,he sat there playing with Music - the swaras, the thala like he was on some jocular jaunt...and did not mind us joining him ...

When it was over, I did not want to leave, I wanted a little more… I emerged out of the theatre in a trance...


I saw "Slumdog Millionaire", "Rock On", "Welcome to Sajjanpur".

Dare I say I did not like the first very much?
I liked the kids though- they were too good.
Happy about A.R. Rehman's awards though I've liked some of his other scores better in the past.

The second one reminded me of 'Dil Chahta hai", 'Rang de Basanti' and 'Jhankaar Beats'.
Cute movie.

Loved the last one.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Writing Prompt # 3 Nearest funny Fix

This is getting really interesting. The third writing prompt is up, this time by altoid.

Before you read the prompt, make sure you will have 10 minutes of uninterrupted time to write and please do time yourself. Once you've written it, please leave a link here so we can come over and read it. Here goes:

Write about who your nearest and surest clown/joke/humour fix is? Who is that one person you can always count on making you laugh, even if you werent looking for one? Is it someone in your immediate family, a close friend, or perhaps its you? You could be your own clown! Alright, go on now-tell us about him/her and maybe leave a number as well so we could dial-a-laugh perhaps, if we need one?

My Husband! He makes me guffaw , actually go ROTFL literally and figuratively. He has this habit of coming up with the most random one liners off the cuff , all the while poker faced. Needless to say I'm in splits and go all blue in the face. His 'jokes'? They can't be defined as jokes by any standards. Just the most absurd, spontaneous comment. So sudden and unexpected that I get the impression he also heard of it only after the words have slipped out of his mouth. His comments have this picturesque quality about them that the moment I hear it , I see it in Zoom video. I’ve always been notorious for my explosive guffaws. I’ve managed to startle myself with my peals of laughter. The moment I start off like a machine gun my husband gets into panic mode trying to ‘shhush’ me into silence. He thinks I might terrorise the neighbourhood. He mumbles "veTi poTTikkaan thuTangi” which means 'there she goes bursting fire crackers'- as if it was entirely my fault. His ‘jokes’ have this habit of replaying itself in my mind in the most awkward moments, and I’ve a tough time trying to control my chortles. I’ve to admit that I can laugh at his ‘jokes’ even when he repeats them!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Writing Prompt # 2

Now from here

Before you read the prompt, make sure you will have 10 minutes of uninterrupted time to write and please do time yourself. Once you've written it, please leave a link here so we can come over and read it.

Do you have any one moment in your life, when you were totally, madly, utterly embarassed? Was it a situation in which you did something, said something or just happened to find yourself in? If you recall those feelings of wanting to sink through the ground, or suddenly appear invisible....use this prompt to recount them and help us feel your plight.

I am trying to remember the times I've been embarassed- those times when I felt like sinking underground a la- Sitadevi. Doubtless there were many such instances, but somehow now as I try to summon the memories they refuse to resurface; and one of the conditions to be followed in this exercise is not to read other posts in response to the prompt before doing the exercise oneself.

Then voila! I remembered. I was in college. The lecturer was handing over answer papers after the recent exams. I was not too anxious about receiving mine. The moment arrived. The lecturer waved my paper in front of my eyes, gave me a smile that I could not deconstruct and proceeded to give me a lecture on my tardiness. At the end of her tirade she did not forget to comment on my distracted countenance in class. I remember the mortification I felt as I heard her words- I remember her words too- but I still cringe in embarasment and so desist from recording the same. And finally she expressed her amazement at my having managed to score fairly decent marks in the test!

My ten minutes are up-

Revised, revamped, refined:

Her delicate face was in stark contrast to the expression she wore. A forbidding smirk adorned her face perpetually. Her long plait jostled merrily as she walked with the grace of a dancer. Her fingers were long and slender which she wielded artistically as she droned away in the dreary afternoons. Her saris were impeccably starched. She had an arresting, formidable persona.

Miss J marched into our classroom that sultry afternoon, her pout firmly in place...I shifted uneasily in my seat. The sight of the ungainly wad of answer papers in Miss J's clenched fingers did not bode well. My palms turned sweaty and I felt an uncomfortable churning in the pit of my stomach. I tried to assume a nonchalant stance and failed miserably. The lunch I had during recess seemed to swirl threateningly within me. I tried to look steadily at the unpleasant countenance of our beautiful lecturer.

She began calling out our names and distributing the answer sheets. My heart beats thudded in my ears. Then there was this uneasy pause and silence loomed in the classroom. A voice from within warned me, 'this is IT.’

Yes, there she was, staring at me with a piercing gaze. I flinched. My ears burnt. I heard her voice boom,” Aaaaaaaaardraaaaaa…

The rest of her tirade has been thankfully blanked out by my selective memory but the last whiplash of words resound with astounding clarity:

“Instead of wasting your time in appreciating my saris and admiring my nails, you would’ve fared better had you bothered to pay attention to my words. ( Amidst all the indignity being heaped on my wretched self, I distinctly remember being amazed at her perception though ). "Still, I hardly expected you to score even this much. See if you could try to pay at least half attention to the lesson being taken in future.”

I meekly looked up at her to see the most contemptous sneer on her perfectly etched face. I could hear stifled chuckles around me. Many a time had my friends and me discussed animatedly about Miss J’s saris and appearance. But for now, I was the solitary scapegoat.

The rest of the afternoon passed in a nauseating blur.

Writing Prompt #1

Following this

Before you read the prompt, make sure you will have 10 minutes of uninterrupted time to write and please do time yourself. Once you've written it, please leave a link here so we can come over and read it. Here goes:

Write about a sleepover, a slumber party or the time you stayed somewhere overnight.

Many years ago, as children , my brother and me went over to our friend's home for a sleepover. I think it was our first stay away from home.

We were pretty much excited and so were the brother -sister duo friends. We had dinner with our friends, their parents, I think we watched some movie on video and then it was time to crash.

I just could not go to sleep and my little brother was also wide awake. Our little friends though were fast asleep. We slowly crawled out of the sheets, switched on the lights, took out colouring books and crayons and started colouring in the middle of the night.

Not much later, aunty came in - probably woken up by the light in the room and our muffled whispers. She seemed totally bewildered to see us busy colouring away when we were supposed to sleep! She asked us to keep the books and crayons away and go back to sleep. She tucked us in bed and wished us Goodnight.

I remember sinking into slumber long after...but we had many sleepovers at the same house afterwards and never had trouble going to sleep again.

Update: After reading other posts in response to the prompt, I found mine so drab, tried enhancing it, but there is only this much I can do about it:

We had gone out with our family friends that weekend. We had become more closer and enjoyed the company of our two new friends. A sister and brother just like the two of us. Both of them were much younger to me and I enjoyed being the oldest. We used to go for family outings together and enjoyed these occasions to the hilt. Whenever we had holidays coming up , my brother and me would want to stay over at their place and they would want to stay over at our place. As we returned home from our outings we would be pestering our parents to let us sleep over in either homes.

The first time we had the sleep over, I remember we were so excited. I dont remember much of how we spent our times- most probably playing monopoly, scrabbles, word building, reading, story telling. One other thing that we liked about their place, I remember was their home had a bath tub! I liked aunty's cooking too.

After watching some video, we were asked to go to bed. And then it was that I began feeling strange. The room, the bed, the sheets, the pillow- all so different and strange. Our friends went to bed and after some random chatter went off to sleep. I kept looking up at the ceiling. I remember feeling so utterly bored. I had yet not reached the age of entertaining myself with simply my thoughts. I looked around me in the pale light of the bedroom lamp, and saw our friends sleeping soundly. I don't remember if my brother was lying awake, or I woke him up.
Anyways, we decided to tip toe out of the bed and engage in some activity that would keep us occupied. we knew where the colouring books and crayons were. soon enough, we put on the lights and settled down to some serious colouring as if we had some assignment to complete!

I don't think we got much ahead with our self assigned task, because soon a much bewildered aunty came in. She just could'nt fathom why we felt the need to color at that time of night. If there is one thing that I remember clearly about that night, it is the expression on aunty's face.
She enquired with concern why we were not asleep. We assured her that it was simple boredom and then she asked us to keep aside all colouring - get on with it the next morning and tucked us into bed. She sked us to call her if we needed anything. I just did not want to go to sleep. I wanted to stay awake, and most unwillingly crawled back under the sheets. I don't remember how long I stayed awake.

The next morning, aunty called my mother up and told her about our midnight assignment and they found it rather amusing. We had many more sleepovers after that in the same house and afte that first time, I never needed to go hunting for crayons in the night.