Thursday, November 13, 2008

New Relations! New Excitements!

It’s been two months since I got married. Life has changed a lot since then. Or has it? The place where I stay has changed. The food that I eat has changed. The food tastes different now, nonetheless equally tasty!! The people with whom I go out, the people to whom I am answerable and the people who feel responsible towards me have all changed. These are small changes one does encounter during the journey called life when encountered with the milestone called marriage. People who were very important in my life till now hitherto take the back seat. Priorities have changed.

I think back on these two months and find new experiences. The first time I answered a call on his mobile and said, “Yeah I am his wife speaking!” The first time I introduced him to my acquaintances saying, “I am here with my husband”. The first time his friends called me “Mrs. Venky?” Or when I heard him say, “Yeah she is my wife”. New relations; words which bear a meaning to me now; words which were just words till now. I can never forget how I felt then – the first feel; being called someone’s wife. It felt different. It felt good.

It’s always the first time that gets one excited - being part of a different family, being called the elders’ daughter-in-law, being accepted by complete strangers as their niece-in-law, playing with the youngsters’ as their sister-in-law. I was apprehensive the first time. I suffered from the fear of unknown, the fear of rejection, the fear of my own behaviour and attitude. But this fear too felt different. It felt good.

Times may change when this excitement wanes off as I get caught in the whirlwind of married life; as I learn to handle new relations; as I slowly become part of an entirely ‘new system’ and family cultures. But right now the new life, the new people, the new relations do excite me. And I think that’s how it will be for at least some more time.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Reminiscences – Part II

Find Reminiscences Part I here

A New Beginning

What a lovely evening it is!
Making me feel a serene bliss
The golden sun going down in the west
As if to say “Go Take Rest!”
The day might have been bad
Giving reasons to go down and feel sad
But then, the day’s end is near
Leaving me with no reasons to fear
The morrow will symbolize a new day
Bringing in seasons filled with gay!!

Note:
I don’t remember when I wrote this but one thing that I do remember is that I’d had a bad day and wrote this down to energise myself, to bring myself up! But somehow I feel I am not being so optimistic any more! The expectation of a new day does not seem to spring new hopes! Life is the same as always. Things keep happening – with me or without me, in spite of me or because of me!

Thoughts

When I think of beauty
I think of you
When I think of love
I think of you
When I think of virtue
I think of you
When I think of valour
I think of you
When I think of victory
I think of you
So when I think of anything
I think of you
Because you live in my thoughts
And you are my India

Note: This was written during my school days in my X/ XI/ XII (I don’t remember which year exactly) during the Independence Day/Republic Day Season! ;) I had to give some article for the college magazine and I picked this one from my shelf and gave it off. So that’s how this was published in the college magazine in my second year.

So this is how I went down my memory lane and relived those wonderful days of the bygone era. Lest I lose these in the fast changing lives, I reproduce them here for my own benefit.

Reminiscences - Part I

Sitting idle at home has its own advantages. Esp when your house is being white washed and you are forced to clean your shelf – the cupboard which has been left untouched for ages! Well, that’s what happened with me a couple of days back. Our house is getting a new look, being repainted. And I was forced to pull out my things (so that the shelf can be painted) and then put them back (after the paint has dried). So in this process, I also got a chance to clean my shelf of all the old items, papers, notebooks, my school notebooks, college magazines. Phew! Quite a daunting task – deciding which papers need to be thrown immediately and which ones can be thrown during the next repaint ;) ;)

It’s a nice task to go through your old things and go down the memory lane, thinking of all the things that made you laugh, cry and enjoy! “You know you are getting old when you enjoy the memory of having done things than actually enjoying doing things” goes a popular adage. But am I getting old? Just feeling nostalgic I think. :) :)

Anyway, just when I was rummaging my college magazines, I saw a few of my “old works”. The “so-called-poems” published by my college mates because of want of better articles (or perhaps because there were lots of pages to be filled)? Well, I will never know! :) But one thing is for sure, my works have appeared in paper and they have become immortal in print media! Hehehe… That’s when I decided, lemme reproduce them here so that they appear immortal in the web media too.

Here we go:

Shattered Dreams

Oh my god! I feel so sleepy
Just like a dog with its puppy

There are dozing faces around me
Which I can very well feel and see

The freedom to sleep is not yet got
I’d be damned if am caught

People with guts can actually sleep off
Which chicken like me can only dream of

I’m awake with a boom,
Even before I settle into sleep
Coz I’m inside the classroom
And the bell just went beep

Note: This was written one day when I was commuting back home in MTC bus returning from college during my 2nd – 3rd year. I was sitting in a window seat on a sunny afternoon with hot breeze blowing on my face with many sleepy faces around me and was imagining what if I was in class right now and the whole bus turned into the object of my imaginiation. :)

Paradise on Earth

Paradise on Earth
Are you facing your death?
Snowy caps of White
Being filled with mites
Sucking your blood
And spraying the red!

Gory killings of brutality
But called the fight of liberty
Causing you such trauma
Putting you in eternal coma
But there is still fidelity
Saving you from the cruelty

Your beauty is loved by all
Even your friends and foes
Which makes you a ball
Constantly kicked by many a force
‘Beauty is Love’-but also
Beauty is dangerous!

Oh My Dear Kashmir
You have absolutely no peer
Which is why you are
So close and so dear
We will not lose you,
We will not let go of you,
Not for anything in this sphere!

Note: This was written during one of my bouts of patriotic outbursts when I saw my beautiful Kashmir being tortured for all wrong reasons. Shockingly, whatever I had written a few years back seems relevant even today. Wonder when the time will come when this poem becomes irrelevant and the peace reigns in the Valley.

... flashback to end

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Separation - Short Story Part IV

Recap - Part I
Recap - Part II
Recap - Part III

The next few days in the hospital were quiet and peaceful. Her children came to see her everyday after their school. Her sister stayed with her for a few more days. Her parents stood by her like a rock. She got a lot of time for herself. She was always in solitude and she kept thinking about him. But the anger which she had felt initially after his death was gone. She was feeling sad. She felt that she had bottled up her emotions for too long. She had the urge to cry out aloud on so many days and crying, she did! Her parents saw her crying; saw the soiled pillows, every now and then. They did not stop her. They wanted her to get her grief out of her by now. And whenever she cried, her bandaged head ached! But she felt better after pouring her heart out! And then... she steadily recuperated. She responded well to medicines, she cheerfully met her children when they came back with stories of their school. But she was still confused for so many days how she had seen him and how she had been stupid enough to put such a broken chair and stoop down to take a ball. She began to wonder if she saw the ball or was that also ‘false’. When the doctor said that she could be discharged, she dreaded going back to the same house - the empty house without him! But she knew that it was her life and she had to face it alone without him.


Six months flew by. Their lives underwent a lot of changes. Her time at home was spent in taking care of him. Her mom had come to stay with them to help her out. The kids were seeing less and less of their dad. He would not come out to play with them and he was too weak to walk. He spent his time reading books or listening to music, but most of the times too weak to move a limb and so was in bed most of the times. None of the symptoms had changed - his voice was gone, just a croak now; he was still coughing blood, he kept losing weight and he was eating still less. One night, after the full course of injections had been taken for 6 months, he had complained of breathing troubles. He was rushed to the hospital. She was just making him sit in a chair in the waiting room when her mother rushed in search of the doctor. At that moment, in that cold hospital room, she felt a cold numbness in his hands. She jerked and looked at him. She started massaging his palms, but his limbs kept falling down away from her grip. His breathing had become more sporadic. His eyes started losing focus. She desperately was looking around for some support! Her mom? The doctor? Some nurse? She wanted to run out of the room herself and call out the doc, when she looked at him and realised that his time had come! Right in front of her eyes, with his palms in hers, eyes losing focus and without being able to speak a single word in those last moments, he left her! He was dead! The doctor who entered the room a fraction of a second later realised what should have happened. The doctor went towards them, a pair - his eyes half open but dead and lifeless, her eyes widely open, too shocked and transfixed at some point in eternity. The doctor slowly closed the dead man's eyes and jolted her back to reality.


The doctor came to see her just before vacating the room. The doctor was the usual self, at ease and specifying the medicines that she had to take and how fast she had recovered. She wanted to talk with the doc before leaving the place. The examination was over and the doctor prepared to leave the room when she asked, 'Doctor Uncle! Can I ask you something…? But you've got to be frank with me!' The doctor stopped and smiled,' I have always been overly frank with you dear! I have always thought you to be brave enough to face reality than hide from it. Perhaps I should have been more reticent with you... ', he gave a mild sigh, 'Anyway, tell me... what is it that you want from me right now?'

'It's just this doctor!! On the day of the accident... before being admitted here... you... you should be knowing... I ... I tripped from our balcony wall because... because I... I saw him.... He was playing cricket with his buddies.... He... he waved his hands out to me, I saw him as clearly as I see you now... but then I did not think twice and that's why I stooped down to get the ball.... I, now, know that he is dead... then why did I do something so stupid? Am I.... Am I going mad? I don't want to be locked up in an asylum!!!... I want to take care of my children... I... I want to continue from where he left me!!' She could hardly finish her outpour than she started sobbing softly!!! Neither could her mother could not control herself! She hugged her daughter gently! The doctor was seeing this entire emotional outburst with the same calm expression that she was getting used to by now.

The doctor waited for sometime and gave a cheerful smile. He said, 'Good!!... You are a brave woman!! He was not lucky enough to live with you longer!! Anyway, let me get down to the facts straight away! When you were brought here that day bleeding.... in your face, head and hands, I did not know how and why you fell down! But when you told your father the first day you woke up that you saw him, I knew that was your problem...’ He paused here slightly, as though thinking how to continue and then said, 'It happens... It happens in cases of extreme affection.... You had been hallucinating dear!! You missed him so much that you saw him. You had been too busy for the few days after his death that you did not let your emotions out. You had bottled it up within yourself and your refusal to believe that he was gone aggravated the problem... When you were here tending to your broken skull and broken arm, we were also treating you for hallucinations and psychological problems..... In fact that's why when your parents told me that you cried a lot into your pillows... I just told them to stand by you but not stop you!!.... And now you have realised it yourself that he is not in your life anymore... This realisation is the first step towards a healthy mental state.... Believe me!! You have come out of your hallucinations.... The next time you think that you see him, just tell yourself, 'No He's not here... He can't be here' and get going!! The worst is behind you, dear!!! You are NOT MAD and you KNOW it!! So get up!! You have a family to take care of... Your husband has left you mid way but you would not leave your children like that!!'


There was a pause after that and she did not know what to talk. She felt a different woman on hearing the doctor's words! The doctor was right!! She had a family to take care of. She was not mad. This was a brief period of hiatus in her life. She would take on life without her husband. He had been cruel enough to call upon his own death. How many times had she warned him against smoking! She realised that one small bad habit had almost ruined her life!! But now the worst was behind her. She would take on her life with a new vigour and determination that if it was true that he was looking at her from Heavens, he would regret having died!


PS: I would like to remind a statistically proven medical fact here - Not all smokers die of cancer. Nor are all cancer casualties smokers! It is just that smoking increases the risk of cancer.

PPS: This is purely a work of fiction though inspired by a few real life incidents and characters. However the medical terms and symptoms of the diseases mentioned are all real!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Separation - Short Story Part III

Recap - Part I
Recap - Part II

It was when she had bent down trying to retrieve the ball that her mother had called out to her from the kitchen and she instinctively turned her head. The sudden movement disturbed the balance of the already broken chair and she tripped! Her head hit the window pane first and then with another jerk from there, she fell down on her shoulders to the cement pavement a second later. There had been a cry when she had tripped and the residents of the apartment had come out running. She was barely conscious when she was rushed to the nearby hospital's trauma care. Her head was aching and spinning all the time. She was confused as to what had happened to her. She had just tried to take the ball and throw it back to him. He is going to be waiting for her. She felt her right hand and face very watery and clumsy. She wanted to wipe it all out and get rid of the soaring pain in her forehead. She must have gone off to sleep for a few minutes for she was woken by the movement caused by taking her in a stretcher. The corridor seemed vaguely familiar. She also thought she felt less clumsy now. Perhaps some one had wiped off the irritating liquid from her face and right hand. Her head was still paining and she could anyway not move her right hand, it was a terrible pain along her right shoulder blade. Wonder what had happened to her when she bent down to take the ball and why was she in ... the hospital?? It finally dawned on her just before being ushered into the OR that somehow she had met with an 'accident', (she could not recollect how) and now she was being taken for a surgery. As she saw her parents' anxious face, she smiled because she realised that she may actually meet him in Heaven if this operation failed. Though she did not comprehend anything of what was happening around her, she prayed that she should die!

'But look here child... You need to be bold and know and get the situation straight.... You have to be bold... Listen to me...' The doctor had gotten up from his chair and was walking towards her. He touched her gently on her shoulders. She had started to cry by now. 'The cancer has spread... It has eroded his lungs.... It's what you call metastasis…’ The doctor let her cry for some time. Then she wiped her tears with defiance. She would not cry. She would face it. 'Any cure? Treatment? Surgery? Or something? You know, doctor uncle, expenses would not be a problem'. 'This is the final stage, metastasis... It is our ill-luck that cancer has revealed itself to us at this stage. No surgery or radiation can help... But I would not lose hope so fast... We could still treat with Chemotherapy injections. Drug shots periodically.’ But for how long, she wanted to ask. But something prevented her from asking it. She was quiet for a few minutes, taking in what had just been told and then she asked a bolder question 'How long has he got? How long have we got together?’ There was a moment's hesitation in the doctor's eyes and then he decided to tell the truth '3 months to 6 months... at the max... with or without the chemo injections'. Her world had shattered in front of her.

She woke up to the mild smell of antiseptic, with a slight pain in her head. Her head still felt groggy. Is this how Heaven looked or rather smelt? Would he come here to see her and talk to her? She tried to open her eyes fully and saw the hazy image of her father sitting in a chair beside her bed with the morning edition of the newspaper in his hands. Was he reading or merely looking at it without grabbing a word of it? Well... he has to answer that himself!! A ray of sunshine was falling through the curtains of the room. She saw that her right hand was in a sling and she could not move it. With her left hand she felt her head, also in a bandage, a complete one at that. She felt a few stitches and mild bruises on her cheeks and forehead. Her father just noticed her stirring and came to look at her. It was a very soft face looking up to her then. She had never seen her father so anxious. Father was bent towards her, his hands softly prodding her head and asking her, ‘How are you feeling now, dear?’ She gave a weak smile and said, ‘Yeah... Dad!! Am feeling better. But... but why am I here? What did I do, dad?’ As she heard her own small voice echoing surprisingly in the quiet hospital room, she realised regretfully that she was still alive. Father said, with the same low soft voice that was filled with affection, ‘It's nothing child! Just that you tripped from our balcony and fell... head down... on the pavement below! There's nothing to worry now... You... You will be alright!’ She was surprised how she had fallen? She thought for a while and then answered in the same meek voice, ‘But dad I thought I was trying to help those people who were playing cricket.... ', she paused here and continued, 'I saw him dad!! He had been bowling and the batsman had hit him hard. The ball was down on the window pane below our balcony. He was waving to me to retrieve the ball, so that's why I stooped down!' Her father controlled the surge of emotions hitting him hard in his throat. He swallowed his emotions in a gulp and softly continued, ‘Look here child!! Let's talk about all this later! Right now it's time for you to take rest. I will call the doctor right away to say that you have woken up! And yes... your children would come to see you after their school hours today!!' Father turned his face away unable to see his daughter. Just as he was struggling to wipe a tear from his own eyes, she caught up her father's arms determinedly and said in a very assured voice, 'Dad! Is he not dead? Then how did I see him there in the play park? How did I see him bowling and then waving back to me, dad? Dad... Am I going mad because he is dead! Am I becoming crazy?' It was all her father could do to control his emotions. He let the tear drop from his eyes and kissed her gently on her forehead and said, 'No dear!! It can not be that! Don't strain yourself into thinking too much!! Just put your mind at rest!!' He gave her his best reassuring smile and went to call on the doctor. She closed her eyes again and fell into another deep sleep, dreaming about the only person she had ever loved in her life and who was right now dead and beyond her reach!

What followed after that was a lot of confusion. Friends and relatives flocked to see him. The news was broken to him also, but without the time frame!! He had said, rather croaked, 'Hey Sweetie! Why do you worry! This cancer cannot kill me! Doctor has still said we could try the chemo injections, right? We'll try that also. At the end of the first course of the injections, the doctor is going to be surprised with my recovery and he is going to praise our perseverance. It's going to be a miracle! We still have our kids' education, their wedding and their children. I am gonna live to see my grand children'. He was too hopeful. There had been times when she had woken up at night after many a nightmare! They were all the same, every time - He would be drowning in a large lake and she on a boat trying desperately to save him; they would be in an aero plane which had lost control and he would just slip out of the plane into the night sky while she desperately tries to hold on to him; he would be in the pillion and she would be riding, they meet with an accident, she takes his bloody body on her laps, trying to shake him and wake him but he would not respond - and every nightmare ended the same way; they had the same effect on her. She would wake up screaming, sweating profusely and rushing to his bedside to hear his heartbeat - to listen to that re-assuring sign of life!! Every injection had been painful. She could see that he was suffering. She kept telling him 'Hold on dear!! For my sake! For your sake! Just hold on! The worst will be behind us!' and he kept going. The drugs were injected every month for six months.


...to be concluded.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Separation - Short Story Part II

Recap - Part I


It had started with fatigue, a few months after he had quit smoking. He was feeling very tired. It was attributed to his hectic work schedule. He had been working non-stop for the past couple of months - night-outs, weekends in office. A pressing deadline! He was finding it difficult to do routine things like climbing the stairs to just his second floor cubicle. His agility had gone. He felt tired always. She chided him for being so lazy and for growing old ‘so soon’. She advised a couple of days’ rest and a break. She also took off from her school and stayed at home with him. After a lot of cajoling on her part to take a break and a promise to the manager that next week he would compensate for this week’s absence, he decided to stay at home. But then he lost his appetite too. He did not like to eat at all. The exercise to rejuvenate him seemed to be failing. His fatigue and work were taking their toll on his health. His eating habits changed. He lost weight. Everything was so gradual and slow that she failed to notice the symptoms. It was only when he got ‘throat infection’ after a fortnight of his ‘break’ that alarm bells rang in her mind. She decided it was time for him to take up a medical check up. She had been too careless with his health for the past few weeks.

She was able to see him everywhere in their room. He was there searching for his favourite checked shirt in the cupboard and calling out to her unable to find it. He was there in front of the mirror trying to comb his hair, which always had an unruly strand sticking out. He was there sitting on the bed with his laptop doing his office work oblivious to her rambling about keeping office work out of 'her' home. She got up from her chair and went to the cupboard. She had lost count of time. Her sister had taken the kids to the apartment play park. Her mom was in the kitchen preparing the evening snacks and her father had gone out for a walk. It was surprising how everyone had left her alone to her memories! No one wanted to disturb her. Perhaps they understood what she wanted. As she opened the cupboard and saw his crumpled t-shirt lying carelessly above the other neatly stacked dresses, she thought she could still smell his scent in it. This was the same t-shirt he had worn on the last day before rushing to the hospital when he had complained of breathlessness. She slowly took it in her hands, and felt the smoothness of the cotton on her cheeks. She was just beginning to cry; just beginning to breakdown, small drops of tears were forming in her eyes and her heart was beginning to feel heavy. She still held the t-shirt in her hands as she moved out of the bedroom into the balcony overlooking the apartment play park. She saw her children playing with the other kids in the apartment. Her children had forgotten what had befallen them quite easily. She felt it was better to be a kid. But hadn't he always said that about her? He had always thought that she was his first child! And then she saw him too.

They had gone to their family doctor and the doctor had prescribed the usual antibiotics, vitamin tablets, iron tonic, etc for a few days. It was 3 days since he had started taking the medicines and still there was no improvement in his appetite or agility. It was the 4th day morning, when he was brushing his teeth, that he noticed that he had spit blood. He was alarmed himself. He had never given a second thought to his exhaustion and now suddenly he was horrified. After finishing off the morning chores, sending the kids off to school, a light breakfast of juice and corn flakes, both of them had gone to the doctor. The doctor seemed a little worried on knowing about the blood in the sputum and prescribed a biopsy, X-ray and CT scan with the reassurance to them that there was nothing to worry and these were just routine tests. They went to get the reports the next day and later, for consultation with the doctor. As they both sat in that hospital, in front of the doctor, something was nudging her. She did not feel good about it at all. One could call it a woman's instinct.

She saw him a couple of hundred metres away from the play park, in the ground - his hangout with other fathers and youngsters of the apartment. He was playing cricket. He had just bowled an over and the batsman had gone for a big one off the last ball; bad timing and the ball had landed on the window pane, a few feet below the balcony from where she was seeing him. He was just a little irritated that the batsman had swung the bat in his over and ball had landed in an inaccessible area. She saw the ball lying there, amidst the leaves, a small rusted tin, an old broken bat, a rag and other trifles that had accumulated on the pane over the period of years. She smiled and waved back to him that she would retrieve the ball from there and throw it back to him. That was not so difficult!

It was a multi-specialty hospital, one of the popular corporate hospitals in the city. Everything about it was rich, from the reception, lobby, the patient rooms to the lifts, the stair ways, pharmacy - everything. Even the people who had come there seemed wealthy spending all the well-earned money on the ill-deserved illness!! 'Were there really so many people sick in the world?’ she thought. Some extremely worried faces and some very relaxed in fact smiling ones. However the most painful ones to look at were the ones with the resigned expressions, going about the hospital corridors with medicines or money receipts in hands but despair in their eyes! It was an expression of silent acceptance of what was to befall them. They knew what was to come, but they were helpless in avoiding it. All that they could do was awaiting it! She did not know the cause of their concern, but something about these expressions had troubled her as she had entered the doctor's room with her husband and the reports.

She bent down the window pane right below her balcony, but her hands would not reach the ball. She could either try pushing the ball down to him with some long stick or she could put a stool in the balcony itself, stand over it and bend down to retrieve the ball. She looked around in their room and her gaze fell on the tiny chair - her younger one's long forgotten rocking chair which no longer rocked because it was broken near its legs. She thought, 'This must be ideal for me. After all I am going to just step on the chair for a few seconds, stoop down and pick up the ball. Not much of an effort.' She put his shirt down on the bed nearby and picked up the broken chair and positioned it in the place right above the window pane where she found the ball. She gingerly stepped on the chair and stretched her arms towards the ball.

The X-Ray showed her husband's lungs in various angles- left lung, right lung, the dorsal view, ventral view and many other angles. She was worried if something was wrong with the lungs, was she imagining things or did the lungs really look 'eroded'? The X-Ray, CT scan, biopsy reports, total of about 10-15 pages; a couple of them in pink colour and a few in white. At the end of the pink report she found the words 'Result: Bronchogenic carcinoma'. Another page of the report and another 'Result: Small Cell Carcinoma'. She was able to catch words 'metastasis', 'oncogens percentage', 'small cell carcinoma'. They made no sense to her. She knew that those words were significant but what it meant when translated to 'English', she did not know. The doctor looking at the reports in front of her would know. The doctor always reminded her of the typical fatherly figure, a man of sixty, short, a little stout, balding head with a few strands of white hair slowing finding their way among the thinning hairline. As he sat there looking at the report, his already creased forehead seemed unable to hold the new set of wrinkles that were appearing. It was full five minutes before the doctor started speaking to her, 'Oh! It's nothing to worry. We could admit him in our hospital itself for a few days and start the treatment. Don't worry, my child! He will be alright. Let us first put him into a comfortable bed and then we would talk in leisure'. This was all wrong, she thought. She was on the verge of panic 'But doctor, what is it? What are you going to treat him for?’ she almost pleaded. The doctor was his usual self, calm and composed, 'As I said nothing to worry, dear! The reports seem to denote mild tuberculosis. If he undergoes treatment, he should be fine. We'll first put him at ease and then I will talk to you, is that fine?’ He had said that with a cool composure but with finality in his voice that she did not press further. She was in a trance till the admission formalities had been completed and she found herself once again in front of the doctor’s desk. But this time, he did not have to look in to the report now. He was waiting for her with ’bad’ news. She was able to sense it. The doctor looked straight at her and started, 'I hate to tell this to you. But I have to. I have always told him to stop smoking and I know that you also have struggled to make him stop this habit. Now, I know that he has stopped. But.... ', the doctor looked down as if he could not longer look at her tear stained eyes and then looked up at her once again with a look trying to calm her, '... but now it's too late.... you must have seen the report... He... he has got lung cancer.' When the doctor stopped there, it seemed as if her world had also stopped.

...to be continued

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Auto Driver!

The movie plan had been in the making for quite some time and at last I left office a little earlier than usual to watch this movie. As I was walking along the road looking for some auto, my gaze fell on this auto which was actually going on the other side. He slowed down and nodded his head as if to ask where I wanted to go. I shouted out the name of my destination from where I was and he shook his head non-committedly and started off his way! Wonder what went through his mind, he slowed down the next second, made a ‘U’ turn and halted next to me. He confirmed the name of the theatre from me again and said ‘Fine I will take you… Hmm.. But 20 rupees more than the meter fare’. I am not the type that usually bargains or argues, I say yes and agree to the fare or say no and walk off. But that day something nudged me and I almost revolted. I threatened him, "Not a penny more than meter fare, Else I am getting down you can go your way and I will go mine". There was a tinge of disappointment in his face. He grumbled something about "Only 20 rupees extra! Or perhaps just 10 rupees extra!!" and took to his driving! But that day, I would not budge. I loathed autowalas who demanded more fare and now this guy. I knew that I was traveling a longer distance which would come to at least 70-80 rupees and still this guy demands more! My anger was at an all time high!

As the auto travelled through the city’s traffic, I thought that the meter was jumping faster than usual (Or was it my imagination, I don't know!). 'These auto walas!! They somehow know how to manipulate the meter when the passenger refuses to give extra fare! Look at how fast the fare is increasing! Damn it! Looks like I have to quarrel with him when I get down! Lemme see!!' And then he stopped in between and said, “One min madam!” Off he went, while the meter spit a rupee more in the waiting mode! I had decided. I was not going to pay him a penny more. Even if it was some odd number and 50 paise, I was going to give him the exact change! This thought gave me some sort of a devilish satisfaction and I waited. He came and to my dismay had a lit cigarette in his mouth. There I almost snapped, “Will you put off the cigarette now? I am allergic to cigarette smoke!”. He asked me incredulously, “You want me to put out the cigarette?” and I answered with a little more-than-necessary-firmness, “Yes”. And then he did put it out!

I was able to see the pure white cigarette in his hands when he had brought it in and when he did put it out without a second’s argument I somehow began to feel a little bad (a sudden change in mind? I don’t know!). That cigarette might have as well cost him 3-4 rs and he was now forced to abandon it because of me! A small feeling of remorse was creeping in. I kept quiet. But after a few mins, when my gaze fell on the fare-meter, the nagging doubt that the meter was jumping faster than usual came back and hit me hard. When we were about a couple of kms away from the theatre, his gesture of putting out the cigarette was completely gone from my mind and the foremost thought running was ‘He is cheating me with false meter! It would not cost so much at all! Oh these guys! They find new means of cheating people but this time I am not going to let that happen! I am gonna argue with him when I get down’. I asked him, “Is the meter fine? I think it is not showing the correct amount! It is showing too much!”. He answered in a normal tone, “The meter is fine madam. From the place where I picked you till here it usually costs around Rs. 80 and drop to that theatre usually costs around 120”. Saying so we both looked at the metre reading – It showed Rs. 76! Was it possible that he was not lying? I was still not convinced. But I did not take it up further then, I just postponed my outburst by a few mins.

We were almost near the theatre now. The auto was waiting in the signal and the cinema was a few yards the other side of the intersection. The fare meter now showed 100 rs. If he reset the meter it would show the minimum fare 14 rs, so when he drops me, perhaps a few yards away, I have to pay him 14 rs more than 100; 14 - the amount I can save if I get out right now and walk the distance. I would avoid an argument and get a sadistic satisfaction of depriving him of 14 rs. Yes! Serves him right! I had decided. I told him that I was getting down there itself and paid him 100 rs. I expected him to argue back, but he did not. That itself was a surprise for me! He got the money with a resigned expression of Oh-I-know-your-kinds! I was a little dazed by his silent acceptance. I got out, negotiated my way through the waiting vehicles and started walking on the pavement towards the signal.

When I was thus walking out alone, I somehow felt ashamed of myself at the whole episode. What did I gain by depriving him of that 14 rs? I did some mental calculation of the distance and realised that he had not been lying when he said that normally it would cost around 120 rs. Now that I had got down mid way, he would anyway have to cross the signal, perhaps even come to the theatre and wait for his next fare. And then it struck me that he had also put out his cigarette, his energy booster. Wonder for how long he had been controlling his urge to smoke and when he did get a chance he had to put out without even taking in a single puff of smoke! Agreed I could not let him smoke, because I am allergic to it, but still I could have at least been nicer to him. Why was I feeling bad after doing something which I had contemplated and decided on all my way! I was regretting my decision to walk out like that. I started looking out for him if only I could give him 10 rs more. I stopped, took out a 10 rs note from my purse so that I can just give him when I see him crossing me. By the time I could reach the intersection, the signal had turned green and vehicles started moving. I lost the auto in which I had come. I crossed the road when the signal turned green for me, still clutching the 10 rs in my hand and cursing myself for behaving in a fashion in which I am not used to behave. This was going to be among my biggest regrets in life now – depriving a daily wager of his paltry ‘bonus’!

Just when I was about to enter the theatre complex, I crossed a familiar figure just getting out of the auto and lighting a cigarette! I turned back. Yes this was the same driver in whose auto I had come today. I went back and gave him the 10 rs still crumpled because of my own anger! He gave a puzzled look and asked, “Why madam?” I could only muster, “For the cigarette you did not smoke some time back!”

As he got the money with a big smile on his face, it felt good to me, immensely good! It’s ok if I had been cheated. It's ok if I had paid for the distance I walked. His grateful smile made my day! :) :)

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Separation - Short Story Part I

She had never cried. In spite of what had happened to her. He would not like to see her crying. So she hadn't cried. But she was angry with him - very angry. How dare he do this to her? Hadn’t she loved him with all her heart? He had been her life. She had never for once also thought that they would be separated. They had been together for the most part of the past 15 years of their life. Two kids in a span of 3 years about 2 years after their marriage 13 years ago. 2 years of courtship before the wedding. All these seemed just numbers now –just statistics; which had no meaning to her and her children; no meaning to their future.

When had she first met him? She tried to remember. Well, that was a day neither of them would ever forget. So she needn’t try to remember anyway, the date was etched in her memory. It was the day of fresher’s party hosted by her colleagues and he also had been a newcomer, though not a fresher, he was her senior by 2 years. He was introduced as her colleague’s friend and in a new city/new office and new work culture looking out for friends and weekend getaways. She had taken to like him almost immediately. There was nothing professional about their relationship, right from the first day. They were ‘friends’, from the minute they had met and not ‘colleagues’. The next few months saw them going for outing with each other’s friends, colleagues. New people, new place, new friends. Absolutely no worries! Life had been blissful.

When she realised that he had left her, forever and never come back, she had been brave - very brave in going about the formalities; never once showing her real feelings to anyone outside. The usually emotional ‘she’ was missing, gone with him. All that her parents and friends saw was the hardened ‘she’. They were getting worried if she would do anything drastic. But they knew better, she may be an emotional person but not foolish. They knew she would cope with everything that she faces.

Their friendship slowly developed. They were so much ‘like’ each other and so much ‘unlike’ each other. Like every relationship theirs too had its own share of petty quarrels and petty reconciliations. They had never realised when they had fallen in love. It was just that they had so much got used to each other. And then came his travel. He was travelling abroad for 3 months. It was a world of IM’s and e-mails. They would be in touch. He would tell her the places he visited, he would send her pictures, she would keep him updated on his latest crush back in office, she would come online to chat with him everyday – so that was the deal! But, a week into his stay abroad and they both started missing each other. IM’s and e-mails, pictures and updates could not stop the unavoidable. They had both not known it, rather not acknowledged it. But it was coming. They were in love. It was just one month since he’d left her; but that’s when they decided they wanted to spend the ‘rest’ of their lives with each other.

Even when she had seen signs that he might leave her, some instinct had kept her going. ‘He cannot leave me. He will not leave me.’ She had been going about the daily chores with the same ease but taking extra care of him. He was after all her life! He was her everything! If he overslept one day or didn’t have appetite for his favourite puri channa or if he coughed a bit too much or anything slightly out of the ordinary, she got panicky. Was this some sort of an indication for the impending grief? She didn't know. Back then she did not want to know! But now, she realised that she had been too na├»ve not to foresee what was imminent.

When they told about their marriage plans to their parents, they had only been more than happy. As friends, their parents had known them. They approved of their children’s choices and the wedding was fixed. But there was one thing that was troubling her. When she realised that she loved him with all her self, she also realised that she can’t tell him to change. How could she tell him to stop something which he says he likes? When he realised that he loved her with all his self, he too realised that he didn't want to change. After all, he too liked it. He could pretend having stopped his habit, but he could never lie, at least to the one person he loved! And she knew it was his addiction and she firmly believed that she would change him, for his own good but right now there was no point forcing him. She believed that her love would change him – slowly, steadily but inevitably.

Why had this happened? Something had been missing in her love; otherwise he would not have left her just like that. Where had she gone wrong? She looked at her boy, the elder of the two, he had taken after his dad; every one said that he was a replica of his dad during his childhood. Everything in the house reminded her of him. Relatives, friends who had come to console her had all gone. Her younger sister and her parents were with her. It had been hardly 2 days since he’d gone and she had already started missing him. She wanted to tell him how efficiently she had handled his departure. She wanted to tell him how tactfully she had broken the news to the kids that their father is no more with them. She wanted to flaunt to him in her own childish way how well she had managed this adversity. But now there was no ‘he’ to share her thoughts! Her world had become hollow - slowly, steadily but inevitably!

He did change, at last! For her; for his own good! It was a habit which he had contracted during his teens. But he still did quit. He stopped smoking. Not suddenly, though. From 7-10 cigarettes a day, it was down to 5 in the first 2 years, then 3, and then 1 cigarette in the last year and none for the past 3 years. He had to fight the temptations, but their mutual love kept him going. He had a family to tend to. Now that she had quit her high-profile, well-earning job and took up the job as a teacher in a school nearby (a job which she had always wanted to do!), he knew his responsibilities had increased. Not that they were in financial crisis, but they would still save on the money he was spending on the cigarettes, she had joked. So when he completely stopped smoking, she had thought it was just a matter of time before the damage caused due to his habit could be undone. He will be hers fully and not lose 5 minutes of his life for every tobacco roll he smoked. But she didn't know that the irreparable damage had already been done, the oncogens had started their play. He would no longer be hers fully; their future would never be the same again!

As she sat alone in their room, now it was just ‘her’ room, there was no ‘he’ to share it, she saw the good times they had had together. When she had confirmed her first pregnancy to him, the excitement in his eyes that he was going to be a proud father; when they had decorated their room in anticipation of their first child, his child-like enthusiasm, it was a time when he had become a kid and she was his mother; when they had both fallen asleep on the couch tired looking after the kid, she had woken up a couple of hours later to find the child lying awake quietly in its cradle; when she had announced her second pregnancy to him, he had wanted a girl child now ‘just like her’; the girl child had arrived and her family had been complete. The weekend getaways to the nearest sea-shore places, the birthday parties and anniversaries; the holidays in hill stations; the list could go on; his smiling face looking at her from the picture frames hanging in this room bore the testimonial of their happy past! He seemed to be calling her, talking to her, smiling at her, ready to give the reassuring hug that so much used to soothe her.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Naanum En Velinattu Anubhavangalum!!

Caution: A transliterated post! Ideally either the script should have been in Tamil or the language should have been English! But I have retained the script as 'English' and language as 'Tamil' to facilitate reading by my Tamil friends who do not understand the Tamil script. So others who do not even understand 'Tamil' kindly forgive me!

Vanakkam makkale,

Edho katchi koottathuku pesa arambikkara madhiri irukkule? (en friend kooda sonnan, idha velai enakku othu varalaina naan pesame katchile sendhuralaamnu.. nalla idea dhaan!! Pappom!!) seri vidunga, enakku vera eppadiyum pesa theriyadhu! Ada! Arasiyal le idhellam sadharanamappa!!

En velaiye, rendu maasathuku oru vatti, edhavadhu oru veli naattule poyi legiyam vikkanum.. I mean ‘Conference’ attend pannanum!! (ennoda frens ennoda veli nattu trips ai legiyam vikkara trip ah dhaan consider panranga) ovvoru oorukkum 10 naal dhaan poven, adhuvum official trip. So naan velaiya thavara vera edhuvum pesa koodadhu, yosikka koodadhu… irundhalum, Indialiye adhuvum Tamizh naatuleye porandhu valandha enakku sila vishayangal naan pora ella oorleyum romba thamashave irukku.
5 London le nadandhadhu
6 Beijing le nadandhadhu
1-4 Ella oorleyum nadandhadhoda oru thoguppu!

1) Mudhalla inga meeting nadakkara edathula lunch arrange paninrundhanga. Lunch appo ‘all tables were set’ – appadinna oru periya vatta mejai, vellai velernu table cloth adhu mela, suthi 6-7 chairs, ovvoru chair kum nera oru fork, knife, glass, tissue. Ada set up elam bandhava thaan irukku, soru eppadi irukkunu pappomnu ‘buffet’ table kittey poyi patha, edho vechirundhanga (adhai pathi ellam ippo pesa vendaam! Apparam enakku pasikka aramchurum) – vegadha arisi pottu oru fried rice, aragoraya vendha oru vegetable salad, uppu chappu illadha oru ‘sauce’ (namba ooru rasam kooda indha oorukku oru ‘type of sauce’ dhaan!). seri andavan inniku namba thalaile idhaan ezhudhirukkan nu oru table le vandhu ukkandhen.

2) Patha knife, fork dhaaney sonnen – spoon eh illaiye (oru nimisham feelings kattamey kaiyale kozhappi adikkalamnu thonichu, apparam serinu oru ‘dejenjy’ karudhi venamnu vitten) konjam suthi muthi pathen… illai.. pakathula irukkaravan enna panran nu pathen… patha avan fork aaleye fried ‘rice’ ai saapadran… ‘Dey engendhu da pidichanga ungalai? sothai poyi fork aale eppadi da saapadreenga? Theramai dhaan’. ‘Namba kooda dhaan sendhamizh naattu thamizhachi, evlo thermaisaali’ adhaan style ah nanum fork aale rice saapda aramchen (edho romba pazhakka patta madhiri… anaal naanum ethanai neram dhaan decent ah irukkara madhiriye nadikka!!)

3) Ippadi fork kum kathikum sandai nadanthutrukkumbodhu oru vella kaara annan vandhu enakku pakathu seat kaaliya, avaru ukkaralamnu kettaru. Naanum seri nu sonnen. Udane ‘Oh I don’t have the tools here’ nu kelambi poyittaru. ‘Dey tools ah??? Nee kolaiya panna porey illai doctor ah operation panna poriya??’ nu kekkanumnu thonichu. Apparam dhaan pathen pakathu chair ku nera iundha ‘fork and knife’ appo illai… adhai dhaan tools nu solliruakru!! ‘Ada padharugala, oru nimishathula nee carpenter ah illai engineer ah illai kolai garana nu sandhega pattutene.. neengalaam puriyara madhiriye pesa mateengala?

4) Innoru Vishayam! Socialisation ngra perula oru naal oru restaurant ku dinner ku kootittu ponanunga, naan sonnen ‘ayya naan varalai… ennaya vitrunganu’. Ketangyala? Technical discussion over dinner nu sonnanunga. Ulley pona, ellarum oru periya mug le beer order panni kudichanga. Namakku dhaan andha pazhakkam illaiye, serinu kaile apple juice oda ukkandhen. Oru round mudichanga, aparam dinner (dinner le enna saapten nu kekkadheenga – avanungalaam turkey, pork, chicken saapda naan vallaara keerai kashayam madhiri irundha oru soup avlo dhaan). Seri kelambirunvomnu nambikkaiyoda irundhen patha next round drinks nu ellarum marupadiyum order pannanga, enakku apple juice sethu. Seri 2nd round mudichachu, vitruvanunganu patha 3rd round drinks order poanranunga ‘dey idhuku mela naan apple juice kudichenna, ini jenmathukum apple ai kooda saapda mudiyame poyirum da’. Ketangyala??? 4 round drinks ku apparam dhaan kelaminanunga!! Anaal naan nalla velai 2nd round aple juice odaye 4 rounds aiyum samalichutten :) :)

5) Ada idhellam kooda parava illai. Annaiku London bridge paakka poyirundhappo, indha kulur le Thames nadhi kari orama neraya peru verum sports jerkin pottuttu oditrundhanga (ada kaalaile illenga, sayangalam 7:00 manikku). Edhukuda ippadi kashta padadum, paavam jerkin edhachum potukalam le? (Fur vecha leather jacket, gloves, kulla, thermals, woollen socks, shoes – ivlo pottum nan nadingitrundhen!! – anaal adhai pathi ippo pesa vendaam! :) :) ) Naan kooda jerkin eduthuttu vara marandhuttanga, nadandhu veettuku porthukulley verachirum adhanaley orey ottama veettukku odaranunganu nenachen. Apparam dhaan enoda friend sonnaru ‘idhu peru jogging aam’ adhai yen da veraiakkara kulura night le panreenga??? Oruthanai pidichu ‘ada varumaikku porandhavaney edhai munnadi panradhu edhai pinnadi panradhunu oru kanakku venaam’ nu kekkalamnu thonichu… Namakku edhuku ooru pollaappu nu freeya vitten!!

6) Annaikku ippadi dhaanga Beijing le oru meeting – so marupadiyum ange oru socialization nu ponom (enna panna! Namba pozhappu appadi! Ooru oora poyi meeting attend pannanumnu!). Chinese speciality restaurant adhanale nalla 'authentic Chinese Non-Veg'. En kooda vandha ennoda Korean colleagues chumma try pannalamnu ponanunga (ennai yen da koopadreenganna yevanum kekkalai!), ivanunga solranunga, 'Chinese are weird ppl. They eat frogs!' appadinnu... Udane thonichu badhiluku sollalamannu, 'Dei!!! Unga oor le nee Octopus thinniye da!! Adhai naan ennanu solla!!!' . Ivanungala ellam thirutha mudiyadhu da saami!!

Ippadi poyiturkku namba kadhai ovoru oorleyum! Ovvoru vattiyum eppoda Chennai ku thirumbi vandhu nalla, thattu le ivlo soru pottu kolambai oothi kaiyale kolappi adikka poreno nu thonudhu!!;-) ;-)

Monday, April 28, 2008

Me in the Empire Where the Sun Never Sets...

...unfortunately though, it gets dark by 4:00 PM here :-)


Flashback Part I -> Here Please!
Flashback Part II -> Here Please!


Part III

And then I was in. Oh how I felt at that time! The house had been remodelled to depict the house the same way as it was described by Arthur Conan Doyle. I was transported to the Victorian Era. I was walking up the stairs walked by the King of Bohemia, by the thumb-less engineer, by Miss Violet Hunter, by Dr. Watson the trusted aide of Holmes and by Holmes himself. The house looked like how Doyle had described it in the book - the breakfast table, the fireplace, Holmes' study, his chemistry equipment and the gift from the Queen herself. I was a child whose dream had come true. I clicked everything, well almost everything. (But I think I missed Holmes' violin. I don't remember seeing it :-( :-()
Living Room with fireplace - Holmes' violin caught quite inadvertently by my camera!
The first floor was Holmes' quarters and the second floor was Dr. Watson's quarters. (I also missed seeing the land lady's quarters because it was already late and the museum was closing down! I had to be satisfied with seeing Holmes' and Watson's quarters.) I was there till one is allowed to be there. I did not want to leave that place. 45 mins in there was not enough for me at all. I was the last one to come out. The sign on the exit door already read 'closed' :-) :-). Satisfied and happy but with a heavy heart, I took one last look at the place of my imaginations and walked back towards the Baker Street Tube Station.
221 B Baker Street
I caught the next train to Kings Cross Station. (Thankfully no goof-ups this time :-) :-)). Enquired with a police woman there the way to platform 9 and platform 10 . She did give me a weird look before saying 'it's in the main line ma'am, so u need to climb up to the station upstairs!' (Thankfully I didn't ask her the way to platform 9 ¾. She must have really thought I've gone nuts! :-)). She was all the more surprised when I asked her which train to board to go back to Oxford Street (remember I was to meet my colleagues in 2 hours? And I still had about 30 mins to make up to the appointment). She actually thought I was trying to go to platform 9 to board train to go to Oxford street. I assured her it's not so and this enquiry was for 'some time later'. Am not sure if she understood, but she did seem satisfied and left me to attend to someone else. (perhaps with a similar query?? ;-) ;-)) Then on I marched towards Kings Cross Railway Station – platform 9 and platform 10 so that I can know where exactly is platform 9 ¾. After all as a 'Muggle', I would not be able to see the platform, but atleast I can know where the platform should lie. What if am lucky enough to see a witch or 2 disappear through the walls to take the train to Hogwarts! ;-)
Kings Cross Main Line Station
I reached the platforms 9 and 10. (Frankly speaking the Kings Cross Station was in so many ways similar to Chennai Central Station). And surprise of surprises, I saw a board which read 'Platform 9 ¾' on a wall between the platforms! Well, looks like the world is full of nuts like me! :-):-) The police woman would not have taken me to a nut after all had I asked her about 9 ¾. I took a snap of the board and then saw a few others too taking fotos! :-) :-) Good for me! I would not be the odd person out there.
Platform 9 3-quarters in Kings Cross Station
Well, I've come to the end of my story of how my mission was accomplished in London, the land of the Queen who ruled us for more than a century. I came back to the Kings Cross Tube station (crossed the police woman who had directed me earlier, perhaps she was surprised how I came back so fast but she didn't show it out anyway! :-)), took the next train to Oxford Street, met with my colleagues who had finished their shopping by then, came back to the hotel and started preparing for the meeting next day, which was expected to be longer than this day!

But it's ok no regrets. Coz my Mission Accomplished! I would not lament even if I have to work 24 X 7 for the next few days! I would love to give it back to the company anyway.

... concluded.


Note: The date in the pictures above is wrong. I had forgotten to set the date in my digicam and hence some default previous date has been set. Realised my grave mistake only after uploading the pics to PC :-(

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Me in the Empire Where the Sun Never Sets...

...unfortunately though, it gets dark by 4:00 PM here :-)

Flashback Part I -> Here Please!

Part II:

And then, at last I landed in my place of dreams – yes, the one and only London. Heathrow airport welcomed me with a chill wind and I realized how just 8 degrees can be chillingly cold! Thanks to a friend I had a cab awaiting my arrival. So 2 hours after landing in the airport I was in the Hilton Metropolitan London Hotel, in the cozy bed sleeping and dreaming about getting a full day off on Sunday so that I can visit every place in my list (My list had grown to an unreasonable length by now. To visit all the places in my list even the 10 full days of my official stay in London would not have been enough, but I was not bothered, I kept updating the list anyway! :-) :-))
View from the 10th Floor of Hilton London Metropole
The next day – Saturday, started well, with a quiet breakfast alone in the Hilton Restaurant. I decided to take a small walk around the hotel to enjoy in solitaire as it is. I imbibed whole of the London winter and the British climate within me as I walked past the shops and hospitals. London is beautiful at 9:00 AM in the morning. The chilling wind was still blowing but thanks to the leather jacket I enjoyed every bit of the walk, every bit of the English climate.
Buckingham Palace
When I came to office, my business was waiting for me. I was supposed to have a meeting with colleagues whole of the next day – Sunday and almost the whole of that day – Saturday (Wow! That was great news! I saw my list being burnt and my plans and dreams going up in flames and my heart broke into a thousand pieces!!). But then luck was on my side and we finished off the meeting earlier than expected! (To say I was overjoyed and exultant would be an understatement!! :-) :-))
Big Ben
So off we went, the 3 of us – 2 of my Korean colleagues and myself. Me as usual carrying my digicam planning to click every small thing of this big city. We first went to the usual places Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, British Parliament and London Eye! I clicked every popular and unpopular building that I saw. Wow! London is beautiful at 3:00 PM in the afternoon. And then we went to the shopping street –Oxford Street, a la T.Nagar Usman Road! It was already dark by then and I was losing my patience because the first place to visit in my list had been '221b Baker Street' and the second place was Platform 9 ¾ Kings Cross Station (sounds weird right? Not being satisfied by watching the Palace and the Parliament and wanting to visit 2 not-so-popular-places! But then these 2 were the real reason why I was excited about coming to London, I would have missed the Palace and Parliament but not Baker street and Kings Cross Station!! :-) :-)) and my colleagues seemed least interested in either of them and I was least interested in shopping with them.
Parliament
So there we split, deciding to meet in the same place in 2 hours. They went off to shop and I made my way to Baker Street. Alone in the London Jungle armed with only a Tube Map (The underground railways in London is called Tube) and a London City Map, I decided to pay a visit to Mr. Sherlock Holmes, the greatest detective of all times who had made 221b Baker Street his home for more than a century. After a couple of goof-ups – I took the train in the opposite direction from Oxford Street and then had to alight at the next station and again take the right one; even after coming to Baker Street, I missed 221b, would have almost walked till 300 Baker Street perhaps, but then one good hearted Samaritan, showed me the way to the coveted Holmes' residence!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Me in the Empire Where the Sun Never Sets...

...unfortunately though, it gets dark by 4:00 PM here :-)

Statutory Warning: This is one of my long write-ups, about my trip to London. I had been to London between 6th and 15th of December 2007 and I had written this at that time. Since it is too long, I am posting it in parts (taking in the suggestion of many of my previour post-readers!)


Mission accomplished

Well! Yes, mission accomplished. The reason why I came to this great city has been satisfied. Agreed that I had come here for an official meeting and that conference is yet to start and it's been only 36 hours since I stepped into this city, but still I would say that I am personally satisfied with coming to this city. I had heard and read so many things about this great city that the minute I came to know that I am to make an official visit here, I was overjoyed and made elaborate plans. My trip was supposed to be for just 10 days and I thought that I would get perhaps one day for seeing places (How wrong I was! Come to think of it, I don't think I would even get a full day for myself, the meeting schedule says so!) But still I made a long list from the books I have read, from my friends who have already been here! The list only grew longer as the day to leave to here approached and I was only increasingly apprehensive if I would be able to see even 1 % of the places in my list.

The D-Day arrived and I left on an early morning of gloomy Friday from Bangalore and stepped into the Boeing that'll take me to the place of my dreams! The first stop over was Bombay. And how different Bombay was! The international terminal was very posh and of international standards, I stood there gaping at the walls, the marble floors and chairs in the lounge (Esp after seeing the Bangalore InternationalAirport, Bombay Chatrapati Shivaji International Terminal was a beauty!) Still trying to come to terms with my first surprise and having made all the last minute phone calls to my sweetheart (read: my mom!!) and my friends, I sat in the Boeing that will land me in a place which I have always wanted to see, the roads of which I have walked about a zillion times in my imaginations virtually through books and whose places I have seen in my mind's eye! With expectations and apprehensions in my mind about how this trip will turn out to be both personally and professionally (professionally this was an important trip because I had to discuss so many important issues with my counterparts of other countries and companies; anyway, forget the intricacies of a drab professional life!), I waited with bated breath to be grounded after about 10 hrs of flying!

(I would skip my experience in the flight with an old Sardar who was incessantly talking to me that at one point I had to tell him that am sleeping and close my eyes, just for the heck of it!!)

With the announcement that we will be landing shortly in one of the busiest airports in the world, my anxiety reached a new high – 'The temperature outside is 8 degree Celsius and the local time is 6:15 PM. We regret the delay caused and we would be really happy to serve you again!' 'Well, cool it Captain, I have been waiting to see this place for quite some time and so I would forgive you for the 15 min delay in landing!' :-) :-). I was looking through the window for the first sight of city. How beautiful it looked with lights illuminating the numerous tall buildings and long highways! It was a sight to behold! The lower end digital camera that I had would never have captured the beauty that I saw. So I had to be satisfied with capturing it with my eyes! London is beautiful at 6:15 PM in the evening.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Bindi

There are a few things in the world that attract the attention of people – guys and girls alike. Well, am not here to do any philosophical preachings, but write about one such thing! (Well, I need a topic for my blog too after posting a borrowed one prior to this!) So here I am talking about one such 'attractive thing' - 'Bindi'. For the uninitiated 'Bindi' is that red dot which Hindu women traditionally don on their forehead. But lemme not talk about the significance of bindi, but about how it attracts people. Not just Indians but Foreigners too! Now what is so spl about a bindi? Isn’t it a long forgotten custom of Hindu girls, anyway? The pizza eating jeans wearing girls hardly sport a bindi! Well may be forgotten by girls, but guys, sure do remember it!

Or atleast that’s what has been my personal experience! I belong to that category of girls who wears bindi very regularly (irrespective of if my attire is a formal one or an informal one!). So one day I forget the bindi or it falls off, I have atleast 2 of my male colleagues/friends pointing it out to me that I don’t have a bindi on my forehead (Another reason could be because of their optimism ‘Let’s see if she looks any better atleast with the bindi on!’ But lemme not talk about it, this is about the bindi and not about what they think :D :D). My handbag may not contain other cosmetic items like lipstick, powder, comb, mirror, etc. But it sure does have a bindi pack. Gosh! Else I am dead and tired explaining to people ‘Mm… yeah I know that my forehead is bare, I did wear a bindi looks like it’s rubbed off (or more likely fallen off)’ And believe me some guys actually suggest to me ‘Fine it has fallen off, but you must be having a spare one in your hand bag right? What else do you girls carry hand bag for?’ (I am actually glad that I have been acknowledged as a girl! ‘Tapori, rowdy, etc are just among the few names I have earned for myself!!’)Well, that’s a difficult question to answer. I do not know why other girls carry a hand bag or what they have in it. But my handbag is almost like a dump yard (Well, so is my book-shelf, my table, my cupboard, etc! :D) - full of papers. (I have wondered myself from where do I get so much junk to dump inside my bag!) Even guys who otherwise call me a tomboy, have advised me to have a bindi in my bag (Perhaps an attempt by them to try and make me look feminine, I never know!)

Fine it’s understandable that Indian guys are so attracted by bindi. They are our countrymen, our guys! But foreigners?! As the girl next door software engineer, I have been abroad a few times – a few days’ trip to a few months’ trip. And whenever I travel, my suitcase is packed with an assorted wardrobe – jeans/western wear and salwar/ethnic Indian wears. But whatever I wear, I don a bindi. (Perhaps it has been drilled into me that a Hindu girl should never be bare-fore headed) But the point of contention is again the bindi. During every one of my trips, I find myself explaining what is that ‘design’ I have on my fore head? Why is it sometimes red and sometimes black?

Foreigners are ever fascinated why I wear a bindi! Then I start my explanation. ‘It’s customary for a Hindu girl to don it. It signifies Hindu God Siva’s third eye. The designs are because of my attempts to modernize this tradition called bindi. It is very important esp for married women. Blah! Blah! Blah!’ (Basically whatever strikes me at that point of time! I spin a convincing story/explanation and people are happy!!) End of the day, they get an explanation about this ‘strange thing’ on my forehead between my eye brows!

All said and done! Bindi does add grace to a girl’s face, esp if she is in an ethnic Indian wear – Salwar or Saree or (worse or rather better?!) Half-Saree! As one of my friends once told me ‘Women look more beautiful when they wear a bindi. It adds grace to their face!

The Journey

She was peering through the rusted bus window, counting the vehicles that went by, “at least a few!” she whispered to reassure herself. Days are always longer when they are unusual.

She had to be at Chennai, in her home, the next day. She remembered her mother’s words “The guy is extremely nice and good looking, you ARE coming home to meet his parents”. She dreaded acting contradictory to her mother’s words, especially if the ‘are’ part is stressed at. Moreover, it could well be the saccharine boy of her dreams.

A few used cigarette butts were scattered on the floor. Cigarettes made her queasy, she reminded herself not to look at the floor of the bus, particularly a Tamil-Nadu inter-state bus as rundown and reeking as this one.

As she turned around to the whiff of a cold wind that blew across the back of neck, some silent faces greeted her, one as perturbed as her. ‘Understandable …’ she figured. It was a day of violence between the maniacs of the two states, Kaveri was the usual trigger, this time it was no different. Vengeance murders between them were an accepted aspect of the modern society in the country. The bus had to take a detour from its usual route fearing trouble. Although hardly any, the few passengers of the bus did not seem too pleased to be going wherever they were headed.

She was feeling edgy, unwanted details of Sameera’s narrative on suburbs popped up in her head. The outskirts of Bangalore were ran by local gangs, there were bad stories ranging from petty theft to murder. There was a huge market for kidnapped girls, they were sold into prostitution, but according to some unspoken code, girls from reasonably rich houses would be held for ransom and left back with just a few bruises. ‘The unspoken code was not even remotely comforting’ she thought to herself. The tingling feeling in her stomach was increasing by the second; she couldn’t say with complete honesty that it was just due to skipping dinner.

The bus made way through a winding rocky road that barely seemed wide enough for it. She looked out of her window to be greeted by a steep drop, tens of feet down. Her nerves were crying out for a semblance of a civilization.

They passed though small eateries where men drank liquor and played cards on the side of the road. ‘Their version of weekend partying!’ she quipped, not knowing that their party would get a just a bit wilder. It was a long stretch of land, some houses had lynched dolls or scarecrows hanging from windows, apparently this was to keep away bad spirits from the newly built homes. Although the scarecrows had the striking appearance of a human body on a noose, she consoled herself attributing it just to the creepy environment. After ten more minutes of bouncing in the seat, she noticed a hefty man standing almost right in middle of the street, about twenty metres from the bus. His demeanor was quite threatening and his eyes were eerie even from that distance. His power seemed unworldly, he just stared down at the vehicle, and amazingly, it stopped!

“It is the ditch … Oh! Thank heavens!” she mumbled, finding solace in able to attribute a rationale to the breakdown, still unsure of the influence of the man’s gaze on the event.

All of a sudden, men carrying machetes, torches and sticks appeared, surrounding the bus. They did not want the bus to move, the hefty one from the group heaved the terrified driver out of the bus. She saw the empty drunk eyes of the man who hauled the driver, sickening fear began to rise in her throat. Two more boarded the bus and dragged her and another middle aged woman out of the bus. She only half-fought, but, they didn’t seem inclined to show her mercy for her limited resistance.

She was man-handled into the muddy ditch, some men eyed her, and a few became touchy. The hefty one came to her side; he pulled her from the rest and scowled at them to back them off. A fleeting emotion of gratitude arose in her, but it was to be short-lived. He doused her with petrol from a large can snatched from one in the gang. “No!” she cried over and over again, kicking and screaming, finally aware of her impending death. The burning torch neared closer and closer.

The next moment, she shrieked as she felt unbearable heat. Waking up from her mid-day nap, in her dark room with closed rusty windows, she noticed how sweaty and hot she felt. “Damn, power cut!” she exclaimed looking at the recently fit window air conditioner. Although relieved at the reality, she was still confused on the cause of sweating. “Sameera, I am gonna kill you today!!!” Muskaan shouted, searching for more expletives and her friend, before packing up things for her trip to Chennai.

Note: This short story was NOT written by me! One of my friends wrote it and I am just publishing it here. Comments(if any) are still welcome, they would be duely passed on!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Ponniyin Selvan

One of the best novels ever written in Tamil. One of the evergreen pieces of Tamil Literature. 2600 pages of historical novel strewn intermittently with a few fictitious characters and incidents for the sake of continuity and clarity.2600 pages of classic – absolute classic from the pen of Kalki Krishnamurthy
The writer Kalki with his characters!

I had already read this book during my school/college days when it came in parts in a weekly. I was too young to understand the whole novel, I missed a few episodes in the weekly and the gap of one week was a long time for me to remember what happened the previous week (there was no recap like the TV soaps!)I was only able to grasp and remember the over all story. I had forgotten the nuances and the numerous small plots.


Our Hero - Vandhiyathevan

But this time when I read it, I had decided to read the whole novel in a single stretch. Oh what an experience! What an interesting read! A roller-coaster ride of revenge, anguish, pain, romance, chivalry, suspense, betrayal! The nuances of politics, the details of life style of a bygone era, the beauty of the country side, the definition of a 'town' and 'country-side' of yester years, the political implications of a false rumour – an unputdownable absolute page-turner!

Crown Prince - Adhitha Karikalan

We start the journey with Vandhiyathevan – a prince who is no more a prince, a prince who does not have a kingdom, a prince who has chivalry as his only asset! A penniless prince who is the best friend of Adhitha Karikalan, the Crown Prince of Chola Dynasty. A happy-go-lucky, impulsive, quick witted, good-natured person, who does not hesitate to help a needy, who does not hesitate to get into trouble in the same process and who does not hesitate to lie to wriggle himself out of such a soup! As the novel progresses you fall in love with him. He is the hero of the novel, we experience pain when he is in trouble, we smile contentedly when he lies and escapes troubles, we sympathise with him when he is in grave danger and we forgive him when he falls for the most beautiful, the richest, smartest woman in the kingdom, Princess Kundavai – the only sister of his best friend! He is after all the hero of the story! We, as the readers would have already fallen for him before he meets his soul mate. So we grieve when he is in grief, we enjoy when he flirts with Kundavai!

The Bold and The Beautiful - Princess Kundavai

Vandhiyathevan may be the hero of the story but the story is not about Vandhiyathevan. The story is about 'Ponniyin Selvan' – literally translated means 'Son of Ponni' – here Ponni refers to the river Kaveri – the life line of chola kingdom! A river considered sacred by the people of Tamil Nadu, till this date! And who is this, who is considered the son of a river, who has given his nick name to the great novel? He is the person our history books introduced to us as Raja Raja Chola - the greatest king South India has ever seen. One of the very few South Indian kings who ruled whole of India – right from the Ganges in the north to Srilanka in the south. Ponniyin Selvan is how the people of Chola Kingdom call him with love. He is the pet of everyone – from people in the palace to people on the streets. He may be a young man by age, but he is still a kid for people who love him! He is Arulmozhi Varman, the youngest in the family and apple of everyone's eye – the third sibling after Adhitha Karigalan and Kundavai. He was never expected to rule the kingdom. He has an elder brother who is very brave and able and who has already been coronated as the Crown prince. He dint want to be the King too! He has other aspirations. Travel far and wide! Conquer those places and establish the Chola Rule there! Build huge temples which would defy time and make his name eternal in the annals of history. Ruling a kingdom and the slavery that the Crown brought with it are things he loathes!

Apple of everyone's eye - Arulmozhi Varman

But we know, that he did rule, he went on to become a great administrator! One South Indian King who is fit to be called an 'Emperor'.

Why did this happen? Did he take up the role of the ruler willingly or was it thrust on him? If he became the ruler what happened to the brave Crown Prince? Come, Read the novel and Find the answers!

The Venomous Nandini

The Quiet Vanadhi


A little bit of research into the history of South India would perhaps give you the factual answers for the above questions. But you would miss the style of Kalki. His narration! You would miss reading about a few beautiful women - Nandini, the seductive beauty who with just a glance is capable of 'alluring' any man who sees her; Vanadhi, the quiet beauty who successfully woos Ponniyin Selvan by her silent and sincere love for him; Poonguzhali, the wild beauty who is wilder than a lioness, the uncontrollable storm, a normal boat-lady but who calls herself the Princess of the Ocean and who lives up to that name and at last Manimegalai, the black beauty who has already given her body, mind and soul to one person – our hero Vandhiyathevan!

The Bhishma of Chola - Pazhuvattarayar

The Lakshman of 'the Bhishma'

The Wise Minister

You would miss reading about a few great men – Periya Pazhuvettarayar, the grand old man of Chola Dynasty, one of the bravest men of his times who unfortunately becomes the worst victim of Nandini; Chinna Pazhuvattarayar the younger brother of this grand old man, a la Bharat for Sri Ram; Anirudha Brahmarayar, the clever minister, legend has it that there is nothing in the Chola Kingdom that this Minister does not know; Azhvarkadiyan, the disciple of the minister, the state spy, and our hero's best friend during his adventures and at last Sendhan Amudhan, the quiet young man, a devout Shiva Bhaktha who is ready to sacrifice the entire kingdom for his love for Poonguzhali!

The Princess of the Ocean

The Princess of our Hearts

You would also miss the style of Kalki, his descriptions when two of his favourite women characters – Nandini and Kundavai come face to face (Wow! What exchanges they are! A smile would involuntarily appear across your lips when you read the dialogues that are spoken between the two!), his love for the Land of Kaveri – the lush green fields, the richness of the Empire, his version of what Arul Mozhi Varman would have thought before he became Raja Raja Chola! And you can't but help agree with Kalki that if a prince became such a great emperor in the future, then this is how he should have thought! This is what would have gone through his mind so that he was able to create such wonders as the 'Tanjore Big Temple'. At the end of the novel, you can't but feel proud of Raja Raja Chola and respect the Emperor for what he was! Thanks to Kalki Krishnamurthy's inimitable story-telling!

The Big Fight!

The novel is based on facts; Kalki gives historical proofs in the form of references to scriptures, coins, copper engravings that have been excavated in various parts of South India. But the 'screenplay' is fictitious. The missing links in history have been told as a very beautiful story. What an imagination and creativity this writer has had!

The omni-present spy

The pious lad

You literally emote with the characters in the story and that is the success of this story-teller. You got to read it to understand it! You got to read to enjoy it!

Trivia1: I think this novel was considered among the dream projects of Kamal Hassan, to be made as a movie. But I strongly feel, this novel is best left as it is! One should only read it and interpret and imagine it according to one's own imagination. If made as a movie, it will only be the interpretation of one person, which will fall short of people's expectations! I would personally not want to see this movie as a commerically flop one for it's beyond the plagues of commercialisation!

Trivia2: This novel first appeared in the weekly Tamil magazine 'Kalki' with illustrations by Maniam. It ran for almost three and a half years. And from then till now, the magazine Kalki has published this novel in its weekly from time to time with illustrations by various artists including Vinu, Maniam Selvan (Maniam's son), Padmavasan. When I read this a few years ago for the first time, the illustrations were by 'Padmavasan'. The illustrations you see here are by Padmavasan which accompanied the story when it was published in the weekly a few years back.

Note: I can't call this a book review. I am a very small-time reader to comment or give a review about Kalki's books. This is just my experience. The joy I felt on reading Ponniyin Selvan.