Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Old Lady And I

Summer was around and everywhere !

Bereft of songs, the   birds had made themselves scarce, while  dry and droopy trees  stood  silent in their misery. The quarrelsome street dogs  lying beneath the shades of parked vehicles seemed  unmoved by the  flies  that circled them. It was mid-afternoon and  the roads were almost empty. Those  brave enough to venture out moved in slow motion as though the scorching  summer had cast a spell on them.

Year after year the oppressive heat of an extended summer   subjugated me .I've lived in Chennai  all my life yet I couldn’t  quite get used to it.However,  I've  learned to suitably cover  my desiccated  skin , became more respectful  of the season and often spoke of it in hushed tones.  I daren’t curse , like everyone else, for fear of  a backlash .

Even now,  as I  bravely walked along a familiar road,  I felt the heat tearing at my skin  and  sweaty rivulets   run down  in protest . Bravado soon gave way to weariness  as I desperately felt the need for a drink  .  A  familiar sign   caught my eye and  I  found myself   in the  cool interiors of an  Aavin outlet. With a sigh of immense relief  I sat at a table  and  ordered the much-touted  flavored  milk.  It arrived soon enough and I began  sipping on  the cool drink  meditatively.  Within minutes my  eyes cleared and  I felt my  blood cells   cruising  again.The blazing sun was no longer menacing  and the world  became a much better place . It was at that moment  I saw her  walk in.

I believed she was in  her  late sixties. Her  saree  was draped  in a manner reminiscent of the countryside and there was  a certain   charm to  her  weather-beaten face. She   went  straight to the counter  to speak  to the men there and then came   to sit   at the table next to mine .It was evident that she knew the men, but  they appeared  unrelenting. Only money  will fetch  her  what she wanted,  they sneered loudly. She wasn’t going to get anything free !

I had, meanwhile, progressed on to a mango duet and was savoring the ice cream with much ado. After 15  minutes of waiting her tired eyes lost their twinkle . I caught her eye and asked if I could be of help. In an instant she was up and by  my table. She  was the cleaning woman  at Aavin’s  and at the adjoining Ayyappa temple, she informed me, which is why she was sure that they’d  give in to her request. The men, however, remained hard- faced and immune to her pleas.  I reached into my bag, fished out   a ten rupee note and watched as she placed the order .  The men at the counter  now seemed amused as they enquired about the   money. Without a blink she answered that  it was Lord Ayyappa who gave it to her !
She came back to the table with what she wanted –it was a  small glass of  warm  milk, for rupees five,  which seemed barely enough ; but it managed to restore  her  and she began  to  present  pieces of her life before me.After a while, when I picked up my bag and  showed signs of leaving she said,‘ You must come to the temple once. Just standing by the steps and praying  would bring you blessings.' 

 I was impressed with  the simplicity  of her  faith but what   really touched me  was the smile that she wore on her face despite not having enough. I didn’t have the heart to  tell her that this time her Lord had come in the form of a woman who didn’t want to stand by  those steps and pray !   I simply nodded, smiled at her and left.

Looking back I felt that the time spent with the old lady  held a meaning that no words could aptly describe. I felt like a pawn on the divine chess board waiting for its next move. The sun had relented, it was evening and the road began to buzz with life again. Looking up at the pale blue sky I  caught  a group of birds flying westward; like them, I too was bound for home !       

When In Roam

A holiday poster with the caption ‘Stay Hungry for Travel’ caught my eye recently. I felt drawn  to the  words on the poster rather than the tropical blue in the background and longed to get set and go again.

My traveling experiences, though not wide or varied, have been immensely awakening. Whenever I travel, I always  leave my heart at home where it belongs but ensure that I carry my senses to savor and soak in the experience. 

Traveling has not only been both educating and relaxing but has also helped me to disconnect from the mundane.  It’s one thing to go on a ‘no holds barred’ voyage  to exotic locales or cooler climes but a totally different thing to drift though the capillaries of an unfamiliar land and  imbibe its sights, sounds, smells and tastes, to revel in its beauty and  to wonder at its weirdness.

Going on those do-it-yourself trips has tapped into my resourcefulness and taught me to brave unprecedented situations. They forced me to appreciate things that I always took for granted and were, sometimes, lessons- in- wraps!

 Despite the reality of stranger-danger, interacting with people from different cultures and watching them go about life in ways that are similar, yet different, have  inspired me a great deal. New places and people have  snapped open my curiosity and  helped to broaden my mental boundaries. They have transformed, forever, the way I look at the world around.

It takes years to arrive at who we really are and traveling has been my walking stick on that road to self-discovery. You may agree with the English writer George Elliot when he said “Adventure is not outside a man; it’s within!”

I would say it’s a bit of both!

Friday, December 26, 2014


What does it mean to be single in a world where everything comes in pairs?

A good part of my early adult years was spent dodging the incurable ‘match makers’ who believed that everyone above the age 18 must be tied to someone or something, even if it is only to the nearest peepul tree. They tried to market the ‘supreme settlement’ theory by waxing eloquent on the marvels of marriage, which ranged from  somebody being there to make  black coffee when I have the flu to someone walking with me well into the sunset!

Some friends constantly advise me to “go and get a life!” I have deduced that this advice stems from a collective mindset which undermines solitary existence and considers it to be as exciting as that of a leech gatherer's.

When I remained unimpressed, few well meaning  members of my family  tried to shock me into submission by painting blood-dripping pictures on my mental canvas-  their all-time  favorite being  that of maggots feasting on my mortal remains. Incidentally, I've a congenital habit of sleeping through horror films, which worked well in my favor, and all concerted efforts to chill my marrow failed.

One hassled member of the much- married tribe accused me  point-blank -- “Plain selfish, that’s what you are! Just ‘ME ME’  all the way!” Translated, it meant that any person  devoid of    husband, in laws and a pair of  pint-sized horrors (children) is drop- dead selfish. It might comfort them to know that life spent  in the company of  ageing, hearing aid -free parents is no stroll-in-the-park either!

Of course being single, as with all other forms of existence, can be happy and crappy in turns! Sometimes, I spend long hours by myself wondering what makes the rest of the world tick. Other times may be spent ruminating on unsavory remarks or tactfully asking people if they minded minding their own business. I’ve also had to suffer the ignominy of people, who I barely knew, asking me about the ‘issues’ I had!! ‘Oh, you wouldn’t want to know’ I'd growl  inwardly.

But, as with everything else, there’s a sunny side to the solitary state! Thankfully I am spared the potential trauma of living with a tiresome individual whose habits can shame a sloth ,  lose  peace  over  the spouse’s  dalliances while I’m away nursing  his mom’s broken hip or  worry about  his participation, incognito, in the LGBT  rainbow  parade!

To the gentle and thoughtful souls who have told me that people who are single do not count, all I want to do is to congratulate them on their domestic trappings. Meanwhile, I prefer to just drift along with the barest of fuss –thank you!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

All for fun on the world wide web

You may travel wide, you may travel far,
Make lots of money and spend it all,
But there's no fun until you've spun 
Your tale of adventure on the world wide web !

You may bake a cake or roast a steak,
For your sweet heart or your l'il one,
But where’s the  fun, until you've spun,
A tale of your venture on the world wide web ?

Taken pictures with divas and glam dolls in tow ?
Your latest Bullet or your new Jersey cow ?
Where do you stand if the world hasn't glimpsed 
Your magnificent life on the world wide web ? 

Who cares if your smile was true or faked 
While you staggered thro' parties for ol' times sake?
There's plenty of fun, only after you’ve spun, 
Tales o dazzle and wonder on the world wide web !

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Magic of December

The magical month of December is always  marked by seasonal festivities and the much-awaited holidays!

It all began two thousand years ago on a mysterious night, when a ‘king’ was born in a cattle shed!  It was a night like no other, and the world began to celebrate the difference!

 All through my early years, the first spark of the season was lit at school. The dreaded term exams would be done away with and every child would wait with bated breath for December.

 Soon carol books would be whisked out and full- throated ‘Joy to the World’ would rent the air following which the season would be officially declared as ‘arrived’!   

At home, the baking and making would begin in full gusto. Every neighbor would be greeted by an aroma that hinted at hidden pleasures and every guest would be  offered a slice of ‘baked heaven’ that was forbidden to inmates of the house until the D-day !

Some day before X’mas, a carol party would sneak in during the wee hours and, with much ado and fanfare, announce the Savior’s birth to the bleary-eyed! 

Apparently, all that cheery singing required a great deal of energy and the choir was watered and fed  wherever they went. Robust singing always cheered me, yet I have often wondered why people were woken in the dead of night only to be told about something that they already knew!

Winter wonderland and the jolly Santa were confined to the cards that came my way yet, there was magic and a warm fairy tale glow to all things around at that time of the year!

Altruism knows no season or reason but, during December the act of giving gathers unprecedented momentum !  When impelled by greed, generosity snowballs into shameless indulgence. Through ‘buy- or- die’ sloganeering, the month of December has become a platform for strategized marketing and out-sized consumerism.

 Over the years the season has lost its sheen, and December its magic! There now exists a need to revive the old spark and to celebrate wisely.

Here's hoping that the magic of December keeps the child in each of us alive and that it continues to spread cheer all through the year !  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

If I Knew I Wouldn't Fail

If i knew I wouldn't fail--
I'd fly so high,
To where the eagles dare,
And be but a blur,
To the world below!

If I knew i wouldn't fail--
I'd float, tranquil,
On a white swan's back,
Along a meandering stream
On her seaward trail !

If I knew i wouldn't fail--
On a rainy day, i'd sqeeze my way,
Through a sparrow's nest
Perched high,Swaying,
Yet braving the storm!

If I knew I wouldn't fail --
I'd brave the cold air
To trek  glaciers
And comb  forests,
For those  time-defying souls !

If I knew I wouldn't fail --
Like a nomad I'd search,
The whole wide world
For that Entity --
Elusive, exclusive,that can
Make me whole !

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pastes, Pumpkins and Paranoiac Excesses

Caution: This blog is not for the silent, suffering spiritual slaves who are likely to find its contents offensive!! This article reflects my personal views and must not be construed as “anti-religious”!

Festivals are fun –but it’s also a time when our carefully –crafted world takes a turn for the bizarre!
On a certain pooja day, a colleague rushed into my room with a bowl of sandal wood paste and proceeded to smear it on the bookshelves, furniture and other inanimate objects with formidable fervor! Having nearly completed her task she came to my desk, stood menacingly, and was about to resume her smearing when I decided to protest.
She gave me a startled look, which soon gave way to a condescending snigger; translated it meant that sometime in the future she would be watching from Heaven while I gnashed my teeth in Hell in retaliation for the sacrilege ....!!

Another community act that evokes rash behavior is the pumpkin act.” It is customary to see innocuous-looking pumpkins being used to ward off the “evil eye” after which they are ceremoniously smashed on the roads outside shops or homes. This has often led to fatal and near-fatal accidents, forcing the cops to ban the “act”! What a sorry state of affairs for a nutritious veggie originally created to serve a far nobler cause..!
At this point I need to draw your attention on to a religious sect whose members are constantly on the look -out for lost sheep. Once such a sheep is identified they trail him until he threatens them with dire consequences or, alternatively, decides to enter their fold (for want of anything better to do!!).
I happen to live in the same neighborhood where members of this sect meet every week and take immeasurable glee in bringing the roof down with their religious excesses. This went on for a while until tired neighbors with frayed nerves notified the police. Now the decibels have lowered, but the show goes on!
Yes, we are a secular land where everyone has freedom to express. But I personally believe that religious ‘expressions’ must never spill on to roads, offices or other public places and clog our lives, but must be confined to the precincts of our homes or other allotted premises !
Any public display of religious emotions, acts, symbols, verbiage or bravado must be strongly condemned. Zealots must be encouraged to practice the irrefutable doctrine of
“mind-your-business-mend-your-soul-first” !
Given our current scenario there is no such thing as religious harmony—at best there can be religious tolerance which is akin to skating on thin ice!!
I am not saying that there should be no public places of worship---all that I’m suggesting is “please make them sound-proof”!