Monthly Archives: December 2009

3 years and 100 posts later

Overwhelmed by life in this city Reprimanded not to send long mails The itch to write in the road to sanity Made me create this page of rambles,rants and raves For all those of you who spared a few minutes to stop over here All I have to say is a big thank you 🙂


Muthappanpuzha- an enigma

Nestled between the Western Ghats, flanked by rivers Muthappanpuzha is what I call heaven on earth. Of the few places I’ve been to, never did I get to see nature at its best, unaffected and untainted. Located a few hours away from Kozhikode, I got an opportunity to visit this place just twice. Family members and cousins who’d been there filled me with stories of its scenic beauty but no description could match what I saw with my own eyes.

Reaching Muthappanpuzha is an arduous task, but worth every bit of the trouble. After a tiring 2 hour long bus journey, there is again a 45 minute walk/drive up the hill. Yes, whether you  take up a jeep ride or a walk up the hill, it would take the same time.  The first time I went, I walked up claimed it was my first trek in the process :P. The second time, it was a jeep ride. If you ask me, walking up is always better compared to the experience of having your entire system shaken up during the jeep ride.

( the road upwards looked somewhat like this)

It is the locals who transport you from the valley upwards and thus, everybody knows who is coming where, who is going where. Our driver had full information about our family and recognized us quickly. We began our ride upwards and the driver said, ” I may have to leave you halfway up, coz there is an emergency labour case and they may need the jeep to go to the hospital”. The pregnant lady’s house was on the way apparently, and we agreed. He stopped the vehicle to check in on them, rather to check if he had time to drop us and come back. We got down from the jeep and waited for his return. What ensued was a loud wail of a new-born baby, women folk running around the house, trying to get hot water, cloth etc and the mid-wife popularly known as the ‘vayattati’ coming out of the house and cleaning her bloodstained hands. Until then,  I had seen such scenes only in the movies. A child’s birth spread happiness all over the place and the folks in that house even offered us some ‘madhuram’/ home-made sweets(Unniyappams to be precise). The driver said, they didn’t need the jeep anymore and everything was fine. Most of the kids in the area were delivered by the ‘vayatatti’ as accessibility to hospitals was constrained in these parts. Supposedly, the same vayattati had assisted in delivering him too. This, is the paradox of my state. Its hard to believe there are some places where people still live in such archaic conditions, follow such traditions and yet, remain content.

The last leg of our journey uphill demanded the driver to negotiate a stream too. We decided to get off the jeep and walk toward my aunt’s house.  The pleasure you feel, as the cold gushing water touches your feet, as you hop from stone to stone and wait to sink in the picturesque beauty you see around… it cannot be described in words.

 

 

 

 

 

(Imagine walking across this stream)

 

 

 

 

Curving across the stream, my aunt’s house was just a few steps away and the aroma of smoked meat wafted through the air. They get real yummy meat from the forests here. Pork, porcupine… Call me a heartless carnivore, but the taste is heavenly.Even the texture of the meat is sturdy unlike the gooey beef you get at times. ( spoke like a true Nasrani didn’t I?).

And I can’t help but say this, if you were felt that even water had a beautiful taste, it should be here.

After munching on a few chunks of dry meat, lunch still in waiting, I was shooed of to have a bath. The train, bus, jeep journey had made me look ghastly ( those were my aunt’s exact words). If you thought, a hot water bath would do me good, it is blasphemy in this part of the world. When nature’s own bath tub beckons you to laze around, no hot water bath seems appealing.

A stream flows behind my aunt’s house. The stream formed a ideal curvature, with enough space for an entire family to laze around in nature’s own pool. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post lunch, while the elders rested, the youngsters set off to see the newly built ‘ermaadom’ or tree-house. This was not really a tree house but a fusion of a tree house and a shed. You had to climb up the ladder and my mother and her younger sister, who were so disillusioned that they were young too, struggled with the steps. Inside the ‘ermaadom’ the sound of Muthappanpuzha regurgitating was scary at the same time amazing. My phone camera doesn’t really work well with zoom and this is whatever I could manage to capture of Muthappanpuzha (from the ‘ermaadom’) flowing in its full glory

My younger cousins refused to come with us to the ‘ermaadom’ as they were scared of  the ‘puzhu’ or leeches. You wouldn’t know you’ve been bitten by one unless you see gooseberry shaped blisters. My dad and I discovered that walking in a fast pace prevented the leeches from entering your clothes or feet. Amma and her sis, walked carefully checking for ‘puzhu’ entering their feet and ended up with a dozen.

When we returned home, the younger cousins formed a circle around us and refused to let us enter until we shook off all the leeches from our clothes. The poor kids were so scared by the stories of leeches that they missed a lifetime experience of watching this scenic beauty. Maybe, someday when they grow up they’ll learn to appreciate the beauty of it all.

 

 

But all this comes with a price. To access the nearest point of civilization one has to travel 45 minutes downhill. Schools, hospitals etc came to this proximity only a couple of years ago. Even electricity reached this place , only a few years back. Kids from the area stayed in boardings or as paying guests, in the pursuit for a good education. Yet, most of them learned the lessons of life the hard way, there is something about their simplicity which overshadows their great achievements.

New roads have been constructed, the place is now accessible by all means of transport (for the past 6 months), it is developing as a tourist spot, which now serves as an additional income for the people who lived on the returns from  pepper, rubber and arecanuts. While, the allure of money stays they do complain… how it has all crept in and distorted the grandeur of the place.  People hunt ruthlessly in the forests, beer cans and bottles are sprawled across the river shore, drunk youngsters and tourists make it unsafe for women to venture out after dark…

And that leaves me with the question, the paradox of development. While accessibility has improved, facilities have increased and lifestyles are changing, these people are unhappy about the place losing its past glory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


In retrospect

Sometimes, reacting at the spur of the moment

Makes you say things, you’d regret forever

Makes you do things which you don’t want to do…

Makes you write things which  you wish could be erased…

Makes you feel so guilty about things you did, things you said and also about things you didn’t do.

A little deliberate effort could have amended it all, yet sometimes we choose not to.

As the year comes to a close, it is an ideal time for reflection and retrospection. Make amends, apologize and move on.

The last post thus, deserves to be deleted. Too much negativity getting into me. Its not at all good especially at this time of the year. Now that the blood sucking exams are almost done I think I’ve regained senses. Nah, me thinks it was a sudden bout of ADD 😛

Sometimes, I wish certain things in life could be ctrl+z ed too. Why is the human mind so encapsulated in the conflict between emotions and reason?

Lesson learnt: It is not necessary to blog about everything and anything.


Two sides of the road

Every morning as I drag myself to college, I come across these bunch of kids who are on their way to school. Their lively sare an insult to the life-less adults who are enveloped in the monotony of life.

On the other side of the road:

The kids are on their way to school, the enthusiastic faces eagerly waiting to see, what a new day has to offer them. ( I don’t know if kids really think that way these days :D). Lugging their heavy school bags, grandparents, servants or parents would be following them. The kids are clad in neatly pressed uniforms, handkerchiefs pinned to their shirts, shoes shining black and socks sparkling white. The kids wait for their van while the are parents engaged in conversation. The kids are always prim and proper, except for a few tantrums thrown by the youngest of the lot. The arrival of the van leads to a mad melee between elders and kids. Parents shove each other to get their kids into the van first. Sometimes, parents barge into the vans to ensure their kids get space to sit, or sometimes bully motion other kids to shift so that their kids get a window seat. Since the van is a privately operated one, rules and courtesies are comfortably forgotten. Kisses are blown, bye-byes are waved and the elders return to their routine lives. These kids go to the reputed schools of Bangalore, parents spend hefty amounts to provide the best education for their kids and life moves on. These kids are born with a silver spoon in their mouths. I’ve been seeing them  for more than a year now. Having observed them for quite sometime, I wouldn’t be surprised if they grew up into pampered spoilt brats.

Shift focus to my side of the road:

Sometime in June, apart from the regular crowd at the bus-stop, a group of kids aged between 6-12 entered the bus-stop and monopolized all the attention I had reserved for the kids on the opposite side of the road. These kids wore tattered uniforms, walked barefoot, the school bags were shoddy and most of them looked malnourished. The eldest of the group hardly 12 years old, assumed the full responsibility for these kids. The naughty young boys and their acrobatic displays on the railings in the bus-stop attracted everyone’s amused looks. They fought, threw mud on each other, they’d pick up some random metal scraps or papers from the road ( for what use, only they know) and  would be in a disheveled state by the time they reached school. Yet, the same unruly kids can pull your heartstrings when you see seven of them sharing one Marie biscuit. The BMTC buses which go in their school’s direction are always overcrowded. When the buses arrive, the kids look for the senior kid’s approval, as they don’t know how to read the bus number or the names written on the board. Sometimes they make a dash for the wrong bus, to grab space and the senior kid would shout at them and the kids would jump out of the bus.  Few bus drivers, never stopped for these kids and the kids would run behind the bus, mostly to no avail. Many times,  these kids had to travel on the foot board of the buses and my heart skips a beat when the bus goes away. The scene forced me to utter a prayer for these kids’ safety. There is nobody to say bye to these kids, nobody to  blow kisses. There is nobody to fight for these kids. End of the day, they have to fight for their space, their existence and their survival. They are children of the lesser gods only by birth. Their endless chatter and playful antics in those 15 minutes at the bus-stop everyday was enough to cheer me up on an otherwise drab boring working day.

From what I could gather, these kids lived in a slum located somewhere close to our area. Their parents were mostly construction workers. These parents work hard too, to provide whatever education they can, to their kids. But, whether these kids are really interested to go to school or not, I don’t know. I don’t think they really learned anything from school, their inability to read the boards made me think so. Their school is no exception from the  typical government school image portrayed all over. Absentee teachers,  empty classrooms, high dropout rates, unhygienic and terrible conditions… Most of them go maybe, only for the mid-day meals.

Since November, the kids have disappeared. I have no clue about what happened to them. Most probably, the construction workers must have shifted to another place and the kids would be living in dire straits in some other area. I don’t know if they still go to school. Yet, their absence has been disturbing. I don’t know where exactly they lived, I don’t know all their names. Yet, they gave me a reason to stop grumbling about having to go to college. Unlike most of them, lucky ones like us were never deprived of an opportunity.

A huge disparity, spanning across the width of a 60 ft road. Isn’t this the same all over our country? The road to development starts from education, everyone claims. The words ‘Right to Education’ has been making the rounds for a long time now, yet what is the point in giving rights like this, when there are no right means to provide the same.

Yet, I wonder how exactly can we make education accessible and affordable for all?


Wheels of time

The two-wheeler which transported many Indian middle class families is going to be history now. I’m sure each one of us would have warm memories associated with that Bajaj scooter that safely carried us to schools, offices, markets…

My dad says that during the days of Bajaj’s glory, the common sentiment was “If you book a scooter at the time of your daughter’s birth, it will be ready for delivery at the time of the daughter’s marriage… you can give it as a dowry”… Such was the emotional accord with this vehicle which sends me to another trip down the lane.. on a Bajaj scooter.

The transition of my Dad, from an uptight principled bachelor to a family man was made possible only through this Bajaj ( Says Amma). He who was not ready to relent to anything that went against the law, paid his first bribe for this Bajaj scooter. It was some sort of premium payment.

The pride on the daughter’s face, traveling in the scooter, standing in the front. The excitement on being given occasional opportunities to press the horn.

The attempt to kickstart and finding yourself hanging and moving along with the starter.

The number of times you hurt your fingers trying to secure the school bag on the hook at the front which had some weird mechanism.

When you grew taller, the front position gave way to the sandwiched position, perched between the parents. Kinda analogous with your own life. As a toddler you were the centre of attraction, as a school going kid you were sandwiched between people, trying to fit in and find your place.

Soon, came the realization, motorbikes zipping past were way ‘cooler’ than the scooters. Yet, most of us chose to stay on with our beloved Bajaj.

Having served us for more than a decade, the Bajaj started showing signs of fatigue. It was time to let go of the old and embrace a new Bajaj. Sadly, the new one did not last more than half a decade. Quality which was the landmark of the brand, soon made way to unpredictable frequent breakdowns. Maintenance became an expensive affair, the consumers became rational… you could no longer survive with sentiments overpowering pragmatism. Thus, we had to switch brand loyalty…

It dawned upon us… sometimes you have to let go.

Yet, the Bajaj scooters remain as relics of a generation that grew up with globalization.

Tomorrow, I’ll be explaining to my grand-kids, what Bajaj scooter was, just like my parents describe, what was ‘kaala thekku’ to me.

Kaala Thekku: A mechanism to irrigate fields in the olden days like this… see picture

Picture source: http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00routesdata/1800_1899/dailylife_drawings/ilnviews/ilnviews.htmlKaala thekku


Of rolls, irani chai, zucchini and avoli

What happens when 1/4th of a class, gets so frustrated with 3/4th of a Masters degree and decide to go in search of gastronomical bliss  during a 3 hour gap between classes? We all suffer from ‘stress-induced- eating-disorder’ ( nah, that’s just another excuse to eat out). Non-stop, back to back sessions on fiscal reforms, customs union and the hip and happening econometrics class we were left brain dead, until the idea of eating out rejuvenated our dampened spirits.

Following the gang, we found ourselves  in the counter of a nearby joint famous for its kebabs and rolls. After getting our coupons, we proceeded to the delivery counter and my appetite vanished into thin air. They had an open kitchen of sorts and the sight was nauseating. Guilt conscience and not wanting to waste the money, I stuffed the roll into my mouth and experienced what exactly the idiom ‘leave a bad taste in the mouth’ implies in real life.

Disappointed, we proceeded to another place to compensate for this loss and I found myself entering a market place. Soon, I started getting lessons on different kinds of vegetables. I was reminded of kindergarten days, when we learnt our names of vegetables ( and developed a repulsion to them too). The difference was, in kindergarten, they were much easy- tomato, potato, cucumber… the teaching was done purely for educative purposes. Here, the names were kinda jaw breakers… Zucchini, broccoli, cilantro.. the teaching was done purely for show off purposes ;). I nodded, maintained a neutral expression and tagged along coz  there are worse experiences of embarrassment. Like, when 2 of them started obsessing over a mannequin’s body in a store.

Anyhoo, my bored expression turned into a squeal of excitement when I found a fish stall. And what more, against each english name, the malayalam name of the fish was written too :). Chempoli, aavoli, kozhuva, mathi, chala, ayala, sheelavu, koora…ayikoora… the gang dragged me off the market place when I started educating them on Malayalam names of fish.Trust, me I had my moment of sweet revenge. Malayali fish names are much more fancy than zucchini whatever 😛

The proud mallu moments were not to end there… true to some wise old man’s saying, in that corner of the locality we located a Malayali tea-stall. The only eatery we could find to ‘compensate’. I was reading through a scrap of Manorama used to serve samosas, while the friends ordered ‘irani chai’. For a small town girl like me, where world started and ended in the stretch between Tvm and B’lore, this was a subject of fascination.  A few minutes later, lemon tea with a pudina leaf was served. In the desperation to drink something hot in this killing weather ( my classes begin at an ungodly hour of 8 a.m), I had gulped down half of the tea shutting out my sensory perceptions except to that of temperature.. when the knowledgeable ones asked…”isn’t this supposed to be made of milk” . Coming to their rescue and assuming an air of self-importance, I translated it to the chai kadayile chettan. Apparently we had to make a special order if we wanted the chai to be made of milk. I translated it back and the disgusted faces glared at me.

By now, all of us realized that any further attempt to make up for the first mistake (that is the rolls), would only result in further disaster and thus, we were on our way back to college.

Well, my moments of distress didn’t end there. On the way back, I saw the HOD in an auto, going in the opposite direction. I gave a gleeful smile when she understood my thoughts and gestured from the auto,” I will be back, don’t go away”. I had 2 hours of HRM to endure.

Some days are just  meant to be this way. * sigh *

PS: Don’t ask me why I wrote this, non-sense rambling can be therapeutic at times

PPS: The current vamp in my real life saga thinks anything is a ‘standard publication’ if you can’t comprehend it in one go. My week and upcoming weekend is ruined :(.


End of an era

During schooldays, the last working day of the month used to be a half day. Until I was old enough to stay at home alone, I’d be dragged to my dad’s office with the ‘incentive’ of lunch from the office canteen. I had no choice, as Amma would be hyperventilating processing the payroll and my presence( and quirks) didn’t help either.

The end of the month also signified retirements. The people in Appa’s office would thrust upon me a bouquet to present to the people at the dais.Tearful farewell speeches, the grey haired uncles and aunties getting emotional and a share for me from the ‘high tea’… it used to be a routine scene during childhood.

Years passed and few days back, it was my dad’s chance to be on the dais. He was the one who had to give an emotional farewell speech, bringing about the end of an era. I can’t say ‘time just flew by’, yet, when it happened, it seemed like it dawned upon us all of a sudden.

That sends me on another nostalgic wave.

No more tidbits aka ‘kadis’ from the canteen. (The ‘sughiyan, parippuvada, pazhampori‘ used to be mouthwatering)

No more flicking Appa’s pens.

No more free calls ( that’s the hardest part for people spoiled by the govt)

No more ‘reimbursements’.

No more vacations in the name of LTC

No more requests for ‘Appa, get this for me on your way back from office’.( Charts, maps, colors, color papers, notebooks and what not)

No more arguments on ‘Appa your files are more important for you than your daughter’ ( apparently, the first time I said this dialogue, when I was 3)

No more mathematical exercises in balancing the cash register. There was a time I believed those big fat books were my competition,vying for my parents’ attention( maybe the closest I ever felt to sibling rivalry). When I almost tore apart the sheets,they devised a new method to keep me engaged. They would give me a calculator to add the numbers. But, trust me, 2 cash registers at a time ( Amma’s share too) are enough trauma for a child.

No more attending phone calls on Appa’s behalf and share vital office information. ( I was thrilled the first time I picked up a call and asked ‘May I know who is this, MJ is not at home now’)

No more people flocking for attestation. ( I was the one entrusted to put the rubber stamp. The stamp pad and creative pursuits put an end to it. In a sudden burst of creativity, I started with thumb impression and then migrated to do a hand impression. The stern looks hurt more than the effort it took to clean up my purple colored hands )

No more ‘tensions in the office’ which disrupts the entire family atmosphere. My father was not saintly enough to keep office and family separate. He should be thankful for his wife who adjusted to and complemented his workaholic nature. The daughter was not so forgiving 😛

But, none of these ‘no mores’ compares to the joy of us being together as a happy family, after more than four years sans anymore geographical displacements.

Yet, the icing on the cake was the parting gift,that Appa’s colleagues gave him. An expensive watch, for a man who has never worn a watch all his life. Why? I don’t know!