Category Archives: nostalgic ramble

How often do you come across a situation where images from your own life, memories you’ve sealed and secured, reminiscences that bring a smile on your face yet leave you teary eyed and tugs your heart coz you know those moments can’t be relived ever?

The opening scene of Manjadikuru convinced me this is what I would be faced with for the rest of the movie. Thiruvilvamala, the location is just a few kilometres away from my paternal hometown. Not drawing similarities from there and events in my childhood seemed impossible through rest of the movie.

Vicky the narrator walks into his ancestral house, confused. His grandfather is lying motionless and the family is assembled to mourn his loss. And I stopped my nostalgic trip through my hometown in this blog right here . What happened after that are bittersweet memories though it leaves me thinking and walking down another trip down the memory lane…

The days following my grandfather’s death were the longest I spent in my paternal hometown. It was the first time that I was exposed to the gruesome reality called death. That I would never see him again… I couldn’t really believe that. When his coffin was lowered into the grave, third from the left, second row of the cemetery ( we just HAD to remember that one of the older cousins instructed), the ladies of the family wailed and howled, my dad stood frozen and the rest I didn’t care. I was wondering what would happen to all those flowers.

At the age of six, you don’t really realize what loss means but you don’t understand the social norms, customs and beliefs that need to be followed at the event of a death. We cousins weren’t allowed to play, no T.V, no making noise… The sober atmosphere made me wish.. ” Grandpa just come back”. For me, he had gone on some long trip visiting someone.

We had to attend mass every single morning following his funeral. And there was some other custom to be followed on the fifth day. Decorating the grave with flowers was the main agenda among us cousins. With too many of them bossing around me, all I had to do was pass flowers or keep them where I was instructed to. No scope for me to voice an opinion on how bad the orange marigold and the magenta vadamalli looked together.

We found a dead rat in the ‘thattumpuram’. The attic  equivalent in Malayali homes in Trichur side. We had to climb up the wooden staircase modelled like a ladder to get on top. This was our refuge from the control  freaks who’d shoo us away at the hint of a noise. We kids were too bored to mourn all day long. Influenced by the rituals performed by the priest, we had a funeral for the rat too. Incense, candles et all.. and thats when the movie makes strike two.That was the last time, all of us cousins about 10 of us played together.

Soon, the smiling faces disappeared. Subsequent visits started getting uncomfortable. The elders seemed to be behaving strangely. It took me years to understand what was happening and even more years to realize they would never act reasonably and arrive at a solution. At a certain point of time, I had no reason to go back there with grandma deciding to kick the bucket too. I had resolved to NEVER visit the place again.

Fate played a cruel joke. My father was uprooted from his hometown 40 years ago due to employment reasons and 7 mouths to feed. Four decades later, I’m back in the vicinity of the same hometown ( employment reasons here too), where I had resolved never to go back. Time has worked its magic, I have made my peace with that part of the world.

And here’s my two cents on the movie: Ever since I read a blog post by the director a few years ago ( It was one of her  earlier posts, couldn’t fish it out when I revisited the blog again), I knew this movie was going to be different. For someone who loves dwell in nostalgia, everything about the movie sounded exciting. And it didn’t disappoint. Intricate details of childhood innocence, perceptions of relationships and people, not knowing the difference between the haves and have nots are captured so beautifully! All I can say is, I witnessed a few moments of my past on screen. Those moments are irreplaceable… yet it leaves you with this warm fuzzy feeling. Thank you Anjali Menon!


17 years without you…

Dear Ippappa ( That’s how I addressed my grandfather)

Its been 17 years since you left us. I had known you only for 6 years of my life, yet I never connected with any other grandparent as much as I did with you. Maybe, I was too young and innocent to love you without being judgmental about what you did or said and I am glad it had to be that way. Coz, there are very few people in my life like that whose fallacies ( if at all there were any), I refuse to believe.

Your little girl is all grown up now. No longer the carefree bird whose only motive in life was to escape Amma’s scoldings after rolling in the mud. Today, even if I fall in deep shit, both of us (amma and me )know the scoldings aren’t going to make any difference. Its upto me to take responsibility for my actions or suffer the consequences.

In a few weeks time, I will be embarking on a career path which was not even there when I was charting out a roadmap of my future. But, as they say everything happens for a reason. These 17 years have been too long and whatever happened in between, some have just vanished, some memories are blurring, some things I don’t want to remember and some moments I desperately, cling on to, never letting them go.

Each passing year, your death anniversary fell around the same time that I had my exams. A Mass in your remembrance, sparing a few thoughts for you that day was the custom. Gradually, you started fading away from my life. Even though your photo hung on the wall opposite to the entrance of our home, with time it just became one of the stationary objects hung on the wall. Life was taking its own course, I got carried away. Death… strange how passage of time, manages to convert the sense of an irreparable loss to a mere disappearance. But then, those hard hitting moments came about, when you were the one I needed the most.

Each visit to your house reminded me of your absence and the distance it created. Initially, I was saddened wondering why was this happening. And then, as I grew up, as the picture became clearer there are moments when I actually thought,’ I am glad you are not there to see all this happening’. How could people determine a price for your ‘sweat’ or rather the fruits of it? That too, people who never really mattered.

The day you left, I never knew life was going to be so tangled up. I have survived so far and I know somewhere you’ve been watching over me.

Tears are welling up, my heart feels heavy. Words wouldn’t justify what I really want to tell you.

I can’t really claim I am happy about the person I have become, I do not know whether I’ve met the expectations you had from me, I do not know if I’ll ever be someone like you. But, I was blessed enough to have YOU as my grandfather.


Since, I’m not biography worthy, I’d rather do an autobiography ;)

Once upon a time…

The uniforms that held us in bondage were discarded, the terrible red ribbons which in no way matched with our uniforms were thrown away and I was celebrating independence. I liked to believe so.

The ‘single-pampered-spoilt-brat’ label was getting on to my nerves and I pleaded, persuaded and pestered ( the 3 Ps of parenting the parents) to send me away from Mallu Land and away from them. Delhi University was out of question and Chennai was a dirty place. So, Bangalore seemed a safe bet with Hitler (aka my Maternal Uncle) and family appointed as my local guardians.  I had the choice of only 2 colleges, Christ and MCC. Christ is where, every B’lore Mallu and his cousin existed and I knew I wouldn’t be spared from the web of extended family  here.

MCC chics were pretty cool and my moment of epiphany happened on a particular trip to Veega Land, when the girls and boys were sent in separate buses due to several ‘concerns’. So, while grooving to the beats  in the bus, during this particular trip, I wanted to know how it would be to study in a women’s only institution.

As I walked up the drive for the first time, I fell in love with the college. The Principal tried to dissuade me from opting humanities and attempted culpable homicide by asking me to shift to Economics, Math and Stats combo instead of the artsy combo of Pol. Sci, Eco and Socio. I stood firm, for the first time in my life.

Interview done, admissions done and it was time to pack my bags and come back to Bangalore. This Bangalore was nothing like the early 90s Bangalore which I’d lived in. So, advice flew in all directions. “Be very careful, the girls are dangerous”. “People will make you fall in a trap”. ” Don’t befriend guys there”. ” Be yourself, don’t succumb to peer pressure”… sad I didn’t note down some of the hilarious ones.  Also, questions arose on why go all the way to B’lore to do a mere B.A. Many people offered their condolences on the ‘death of an engineer’ in me. ( Who decided I’d become an engineer anyway?). But none of it had prepared me for the awesomeness and awfulness I was supposed to experience in the years to come.

Hostel, college everything was new to me. The reopening session included the mandatory Retreat which I attended diligently, like a goody goody Mallu catholic girl who had just come from Kerala. From the next year, I entered the vicinity only when attendance was taken and in the final year retreat, I slept most of the time in my room.

Now, I believed my college life way cooler than everybody else’s and wrote tiny bits and pieces and spammed people’s inboxes until they issued a shoot at sight sight of mail order. And that’s how I discovered this cool thing called bragging by blogging.  Well, the main reason was a particular friend of mine, the bane of my existence in school had started a blog and received many comments. I hadn’t outgrown the ‘competition’ spirit yet, and if she could, then I should blog too.  People were generous enough to comment and encourage me those days. Arun, Kunju, Raghav, JK, Akhil.. the initial days of blogging without any apprehensions were so much fun. A big thank you to all of you who took time off your busy schedules to read a few kbs of my online trash.

And once, I began blogging, almost everything about my life is chronicled here though there has been change of urls/addresses. ( just like me). This page is like an extension of me now, though I don’t like the fact that I’m forced to keep certain opinions to myself to avoid the wrath of people I know in real life ;).  I already told someone off coz he’s was being a prick, picking on me and my blog entries, fb updates and tweets. Today we refuse to acknowledge each others’ presence which is very convenient for both of us.

Ya, so where was I? Meandered as usual?

By the way, its time to change the Blog headline in a few days time.  I won’t be a Mallu stuck in B’luru anymore 😛

 

 

 


Childhood misconceptions- a tag

I was pulling my hair out in frustration staring at legal texts and decided to give it a break. Nothing can be more relaxing than random bloghopping, skimming through posts and then coming across something that really strikes you. I discovered Pepper’s post this afternoon and this is a very interesting tag. I’m not waiting for the niceties of being tagged and all that.

Here goes, my list of childhood misconceptions

1) Babies are made only when thunder strikes

Bollywood movies are to blame for this. A guy and a girl in a room, lightning and thunder, the girl gets scared, hugs the guy and lights go off. Next scene in the ‘lady doctor’s clinic’ where the lady says, ‘Aap Ma bannevaali hai’. There must have been a zillion scenes like this in every Hindi movie those days.

2) How will I die

I always feared I’ll die coz of a lethal  snakebite. My ancestral home in Trichur is located in what was once a ‘Sarpakaavu’ and some ruthless older cousins made me believe that I live under the curse of the snake gods or something.

3) Lump sum grant- They determine whether you are SC/ST through blood tests

Once in a while, the peon used to call out the names of certain students and send them to the School Office to collect what was called the lump sum grant. It was the fancy name that caught my attention first. On further prodding, Amma told me it is given to people who belong to SC/ST. She had no way of explaining what that meant to a 7 year old. And my next doubt was, do they determine whether one is SC/ST through blood tests?

4) Nuns were the wives of priests 😀

5) Bangarappa was a superhero

S.Bangarappa was the CM of Karnataka in the early 90s. His name was sprawled all across the newspapers and television and my little brain actually deciphered that, he was someone who had come to save the world.

I’m leaving this tag open to anybody who wants to do it. Walk down the memory lane once again and amuse yourself 🙂


Memories I hold on to…

The train begins to slow down, it hoots and chugs into the station as my heart does a flip flop. On the left I see steps leading to the Church where it all began. It has a new coat of paint this time around, new wings have been constructed, the road has been tarred. I try hard to spot a familiar face or someone I may have met in the past. Ammachis clad in ‘chatta and mundu’ are a rare sight now. That generation of ammachis who fascinated me are being wiped out gradually. The train stops at the station hardly for five minutes and moves again. It picks up speed as I see the ‘landscapes of my childhood’ buzz past me. The railway gate, the fields, the house, the ‘vayanashala’ ( library)…the landmarks vanish and I’m left with nothing but another train of thoughts.

*****

I step out of the auto, hold on tightly to my father as we walk towards our ancestral house. The passage is narrow with several small holes and I was afraid there were snakes in them. Amma tried several times to convince me there was nothing in those holes, but the few minutes of walking through that passage was like walking on fire. As soon as I reach the gate, I run down the sloping entrance, relieved. My grandfather would be seated on his easy chair, a glass of black tea beside him, peering over Malayala Manorama.

Tommy, my grandfather’s pet would bark at me, frustrated coz he’d be on a leash and would be deprived of my grandfather’s attention as long as I would be there. And I was damn scared of dogs. So the feeling of hatred was mutual between that canine and me ;).

I’m walking across the fields, with Grandpa carrying the ‘thoookupathram’ filled with black tea for the workers. Grandpa is giving instructions to the workers while the Chechis come and exchange pleasantries with me. About how tall I have grown, about why my ears weren’t pierced yet, about how thin I was becoming. The warmth and affection in their voices, the value of which I understood only years later.

The tractor is making contours on the land, a huge mass of mud is piled in a corner. My cousins and I, in our moments of madness and adventure decide to climb and slide on the pile of mud. Grandpa who was busy sharing a ‘beedi’ with one of the workers got the shock of his life seeing the three of us. Covered in red mud, top to bottom we looked like warriors returning from a battlefield. He drags the three of us and pushes us into a small stream in our backyard. This was more fun than rolling in the mud and we refused to come out of water. The only threat that worked on me was unleashing ‘Tommy’ and alas, I was out in a few seconds , followed by my partners in crime.

Our mothers were furious seeing our condition. We looked at Grandpa with pleading eyes. He said, “I’ll handle this. And we were off on our next expedition. ‘Peedika’ in our part of the world refers to a petty-shop. ‘Peedikayile Jose’ referred to the shopowner. In Thrissur slang, it became ‘Peediyele Jose’ and I thought it was P.D.L Jose!  He bought Narangamuttayi ( lemon based boiled sweets) for us and his own quota of beedis.

Its getting dark. Ammachi starts yelling at everybody to come for the customary evening prayer. I’d be seated beside Grandpa, on the veranda ( the safe place for the ones who dozed off during the hour long prayers). Mostly, I’d fall asleep on his lap and not a soul would know ;). He’d nudge me to wake up when it was time for ‘wishing peace to each other’ ( better known as sthuthi kodukkal). Tradition follows that we’re supposed to wish people in the age-wise which made Grandpa the first in order.

Grandpa is out with his stick and torch. He’s doing a double check on whether the chicken coop is closed, whether there is enough water in the cattle pen, whether the motor shed is locked.

Its early in the morning and Grandpa is busy making my favorite breakfast, Pazham chuttathu.

We go on a walk, till the railway gate and watch the trains pass by. I count the number of compartments and he’d teach me how the numbers are named in Malayalam.

I’m sitting on one of the arms of easychair. I have my cousin’s slate board and chalk in hand supported against the parapet. Grandpa is holding my tiny fingers and teaching me the Malayalam Alphabet. I graduated to Thara, Para, Thala… and my Grandpa was a proud man.

Its time for us to return. That time around he gifted me a Malayalam Padavali. A book with a blue cover, with a picture of a parachute and a rainbow. When I kissed him goodbye, he had a glint of a tear in his eyes. He always does.

*****

The train is becoming crowded now.Day commuters are filling up the space. People are competing for space. Some are standing. Crowded trains always remind me of that fateful night.

*****

“Grandpa is not well, we need to go to Kerala”, one day Amma returned from office early in the afternoon. We packed our stuff in a jiffy and travelled in the crowded Island Express in the general compartment. We reached our hometown early in the morning. My uncle was at the station. I thought we were going to meet Grandpa in the hospital but drove straight home. The courtyard was filled with people. My grandpa lay there peacefully. The smell of chemicals, incense, flowers were making me heady. The photographer was clicking away those last moments which irritated me. Soon, the priest came. He recited some prayers and next thing I know, Grandpa is being carried away.

Few days later one evening, we all sat down to pray. There was nobody beside me on the veranda to wake me up when I fell asleep. It was time for giving ‘sthuthi’. I stood up, confused brought my hands together. It was always Grandpa who instructed me, whom to wish in which order.

From now on, I would be giving ‘sthuthi’ to his photo hung on the wall, the others instructed me.

*****

EDIT: ‘Sthuthi’ kodukkal is NOT wishing peace but translates ‘glory to jesus’. It is a traditional custom in Xian families where we greet each other saying ‘eesho mishihaykk sthuthi ayirikkate’. Thank you Jose, the common man for pointing it out.


At crossroads again

Being the last weekend of my ‘college life’ and with plenty of time left for my brain to wander, delve into the past and prod into my existence of 22 years and few odd months, while stirring the gajar ka halwa on the stove ( 1 hour, kill me)…now that I’m relieved of my kitchen duties ( Amma is on bed-rest and my poor family had to train their digestive systems to endure the fruits of my culinary endeavours amidst warnings that way to a man’s heart is through the stomach and if it goes on like this, we’ll have to get you married to a heartless person)…let the rant begin.

I’m famous for treading the path less taken and then getting lost, this time too confusion prevails.

The first crossroads came post Xth board exams.  Amma asked me to take up Arts and Dad said ‘go daughter, get married to accountancy like me’. With a decent marksheet to flaunt and my parents gleeful over their daughter’s performance, I too got carried away with the herd behavior. Any self-respecting 15 year old was expected to enroll for entrance coaching and take up science stream. So, I was at this place which provided exclusive coaching for IIT entrance. My first lesson in learning- never bite more than what you can chew. The man who was only interested in squeezing out the 5 figure fees as an investment for a 6 figure salary used his exemplary  deceptive marketing skills and we fell into the trap. Few days into the coaching and I felt like a babe in the woods among the who’s who of 15-16yearolds in Trivandrum. I remember a terrifying Dubey and a funny gult chem tutor. When I couldn’t take it anymore, the Latin, Greek and everything else that was physics, chem and math, I quit. It was humiliating to see my name at the bottom of the list for every ‘bubble shaded’ that is writing every test there.This was the first and last tution/coaching whatever phase of my life.

Since, I had no other option I slogged through the two years aka reading novels to my heart’s content whilst others were immersed in Pradeep’s, Comprehensive series and the modules given by the popular tutors in the city. I do remember names like JK sir, AO sir, Rajesh sir and the like. The frantic efforts to complete the modules and test series left me wondering, did I make the right choice by quitting? You know a 16 year old is not seasoned enough to make tough decisions and then stick to it throughout her life( neither am I now). Anyways, all the entrance application forms arrived on time, I filled them up diligently and posted whilst my heart was set at joining a course that gave me  more freedom to enjoy my creative pursuits.

Board exams came and went, entrances came and went bringing in a wave of panic. I thought I scored a negative in chem after going through the answer keys… dunno if I did till date. By then, things were moving quickly at the other end and with the blink of an eye I found myself at the doors of THE COLLEGE. I managed to secure a place in the lower rung of the 4 digit ranks. Dad asked if I wanted to attend the engineering counseling sessions held later on… I denied.

Three years of racking my brains over economics, sociology and political science. In the first year I had major plans of becoming a criminal sociologist. Second year, I was kinda clueless and third year, circumstances were not in my favour that I could make a decision. Economics sounded cool then and I decided that was it.

Post-grad life was nothing compared to the joy ride that was UG yet, there was so much to learn. I was not in a place where I really wanted to be in and thus, was kinda unhappy. But, I learnt to come to terms with it  ( even if I cribbed about ‘something in college’ this morning) and now there’s just a week left. I met people who were GODS in the field of eco, quite a few among them being Old generation Mallus.

Soon I’ll be done with ‘excuses to be made since you’re a student’ and will have to take up more responsibilities. Can’t really say I’m going to miss college but there are 2 things I’m really going to miss.

* The literature, fiction and political science section of the library

* The coffee and ‘open dosas’ at THE hospital canteen.The only reason I survived B’lore winter this time.

I’m at crossroads again. Confused, clueless… I feel I’m saturated with studying and if I need a good job exclusively in my field, I should have the two letters DR. as a prefix! Should I or shouldn’t I… only if I knew.


Food, wine and merriment

(Warning:  Directionless post ahead)

“Can I please not come”, My repeated pleas fell on deaf ears as my parents dragged me into the church to attend the baptism of a family friend’s grandchild. All this, after the previous day’s drama of finding a gift for the baby to be baptised. We had absolutely no clue about the age or sex of the baby. Plagued by the theories of socialization which emphasizes on the role of toys in identity building, my parents and me went gift hunting.

Embarrassed by the situation, the mean me disowned them for a while and loitered around the store until a specimen caught my eye. A distraught guy from CET ( don’t ask how I knew he was from CET, I’ve lived close enough to the place, long enough to identify the species) was searching for the perfect gift for his girlfriend. I kept on staring at his antics which left him embarrassed and me suppressing my laughter. The gift was wrapped in red, with a red rose on top and the guy was troubling the sales boy for a red satin ribbon and a red envelope for a greeting card , all this reddish-ness made my jaws drop to the floor. Any self-respecting girlfriend would fling the gift out of the window and dump the boyfriend for his aesthetic sense or the lack of it. Kids these days! Ah, never mind, I’ve seen worse cases of relationship induced gift paranoia. The parents finally got their gift, age- neutral gender-neutral and all that and we headed back home.

Next day, in spite of a head-ache that transpired to a stomach ache and then body-ache, my repeated requests were ignored. Powdered and perfumed, dressed, decked and accessorized I was literally pulled into the church by my parents. Sans, the niceties of it, God bless the family and the baby… ( my parents were relieved to see the gift was appropriate enough for the baby, it was ‘he’ by the way), my intention is to throw some light on the specimen you encounter on such occasions. After the final blessing, while the photographers camera assaulted the baby and family, the valiachayans, achayans and kuttiachayans disappeared into the safe confines of their four-wheelers. Obviously, to lubricate and dissolve their digestive systems which wouldn’t absorb a single morsel of food without the ‘petrol for the achayan’s soul’. Experienced valiyachayans returned steady and stable, the achayans in the making made a strenuous effort to appear stable while the kuttichayans, taking their baby steps into true achayan-hood were still learning to how to booze and not break loose.

Observing them all and making a mental note to avoid crossing paths with the who’s who present in the hall, I waited in the queue for my turn. Before I knew it, I was pushed forward step by step, my plate being loaded in the process. By the time I emerged out of the mob I was struggling to balance the plate and the high heels ( aargh Amma). As my bad luck was kharaab, I ended up right in front of the ‘local babu’ who never spares me from his annoying questions. This achayan conveniently skipped everything that happened in god’s abode above and landed on time for the lunch in the parish hall below.

“Nee maamodisa koodan vannatha?” , he drawled.

“Alla kooli pani kittuonnu nokkan vannatha”, I wanted to retort but a valicha chiri a.k.a a reluctant smile sufficed for the moment, just like smileys help you when you have nothing to say.

I was appalled by the audacity of the number of achayans who sauntered in one by one , their wifeys had to sit through the rituals in the church and busy achayans landed on time to fill their pot bellies. Anyways, whoever had walked in with high hopes of a sumptuous lunch, left with sullen faces. I’m sure even Obama and Osama would’ve struck a deal to finish off the cook, if they had to eat that abominable sorry dish of a mutton stew. When I realized, my body couldn’t take the torture any longer, I left the plate in the bin, balancing it amidst a leaning heap of plates that threatened to crash any second. Dessert looked like gulab jamun and tasted like rubber. Lets not delve into more details about it.

The caterers are the most despicable species in Mallu land these days. Add to it the extravagant people who don’t need a special reason for food, wine and merriment. I was shocked to see  chicken biriyani being served on the 41st day of my uncle’s demise. Food was wasted in tonnes for this baptism too. And there are people who get a heart-attack due to the soaring food inflation these days!

Being the season of weddings and baptisms, I am sure food, wine and merriment left many in dire straits by the end of it. Living epitomes of gluttony who binge and then rush to their docs, the ‘pressured and sugared’ ones who find it difficult to exercise self-control this season… I saw many ruthless daughter-in-laws who looked daggers at  appachans and ammachis foreseeing troubled times ahead.

Gone are those days when cooking food for the next day’s grand occasion was a celebration in itself. Tempos arrived loaded with huge vessels, people thronged the local village market, advance booking would be made at the ‘kula kada’, the pandal would be erected, family members stayed up all night to slice onions and grate coconuts over endless banter and gossip,the ‘dahannakaaaran’ or the ‘local chef’ was a VIP during the season, the plantain leaves had to be cut and cleaned,young men served the food to the guests and end of the day, the excess food was parceled to family members and neighbours. Ok I need to stop taking that trip down memory lane once again!

(PS: Not all Achayans are like that)