Dec 16, 2009

Grand Paa

You might have heard it quite a number of times, and if you are a female, you should have probably heard yourself say it, quite an extra number of times - "A father-daughter relationship is special" ! Indeed it is..I am a female specimen of the species and I have been fortunate to be blessed with a beloved father. And quite understandably, I know that it is as special as it can get. Quite understandably again, I cannot experience the other side of this divine relationship..I cannot fathom what physical or chemical reactions take place inside a male specimen, when he fathers a female offspring. Having grown up from being a boy to a lad to a gentleman, a father might not completely understand what is going on his little daughter's head, as she grows up from being a girl to a maiden to a lady. And yet, (or probably thats why), he adores her..And the doted daughter in most cases, dutifully reciprocates..A father-daughter kinship is probably an equivalence relationship.

This post is not about "hence proving" this graceful relationship. Its about illuminating yet another subtly beautiful companionship - grandfather and a granddaughter, specifically in reference to my context. As a young girl, I bonded well with grandfather like older gentlemen , in particular, my maternal grandfather. As I picture him as my grandparent in my mind's eye now, he was a fair gentleman, characterized by the walking stick, a couple of slokha text books and his medicine kit. As I try to picture him as a young parent, he was a towering personality,a seasoned musician and a pious brahmin. A graduate of the yester-yester-years, he had quite a command over the English language, it was pretty much Queen's. He had a penchant for music and poetry, and had performed in the then popular radio programmes. I particularly remember his voice for his bhajans adept with devotion, that he rendered in praise of the lords every evening in the pooja room.

My grandfather had a night-shift government job. Inevitably, his metabolism had muted immutably to stay awake most of the night, every night and sleep most of the day, every day. His physical self followed that routine until his last day. He loved connecting with people, especially his grandchildren. As my grandfather progressed to 'second childhood', his communion and conversation had more instances of child-speak in them. The bard was damn right!!

I visited my grandparents at Pondicherry only during my school term-holidays (which I looked forward throughout the term, inspite of the then seemingly tedious 7 hour journey). I was probably a little special, since I was visiting grandchild as against the in-the-city grandchildren. I loved bantering with him then, both sense and nonsense, both gossips around the streets and international news. One of the fondest memories of him that is etched in my brain is the story-recital session I shared with him. I forced him to storytell (in his own words) the stories from Chandamama and Champak. He gleefully obliged, and added spice with some animated DTS effects to those recital sessions.

He was proud of my academic achievements, little though they were. He thought I was a super-kid, How I wish it was true. Maybe every grandparent perceives their grandchild to be one, while parents are likely to be a little more realistic. Just a varying probability again! As with a parent-child relationship, the grandparent-grandchild counterpart seems to me to be mystic. A parent directly contributes to an offspring's genes, while the grandparent's genes are indirect, probably divided. Am not sure why the 'grand' affection seems to be multiplied though. Maybe it is some sort of inverse relationship!

My grandfather is not alive today. Today is not his birthday,nor his anniversary day. It is just another beautiful day, beautiful because I recollected some fond memories, and etched them to possible eternity, which would have otherwise perished with me.
I love you thatha!!

Oct 11, 2009

Bangalore and Beyond...

I landed in Bangalore as a Chennaite..a rather rustic looking Chennaite, with rugged bags, unaware of the local language, unsure about the people, uninformed of the details of my new workplace, but yet, quite undaunted in spirit. Not sure why..Probably I was born not fearing the unknown, or more probably because I had a self-esteem (bolstered by my life's past conquests of fears) large enough to combat this new fear, or more plainly, I just didn't think about it. Of course, I had the backing of a brief tenure in an unknown land in the recent past to buttress me, or rather illusion me into thinking that "I shall handle anything, I am afterall, myself..." That was probably what they call the state of "unconscious incompetance".

Sure enough, I did handle quite a lot of things , just that none of the them were what I had anticipated..Life has a way of forcing itself on you, when you least expect it.The beauty of life lies in its mathematically and otherwise unpredictable vicissitudes or the high and low tides, probably on full moon days. You have to outlive the low tides to ride the high ones that follow..or retreat to the shore before you reach the point of no return. I refused to retreat, until I reached the point of no return. Unconsciously, I moved to the state of conscious incompetence and subsequently learnt to withstand the low tides..Its not too difficult, you just have to stand and stare ;
As my best buddy Divya points out, this city gave me a "taste of life".

Bangalore also taught me to walk on the roads without fear (but with a watchful eye in your back) even in late nights, to cross one-way roads judiciously and audaciously, not to be ensnarled by heavy vehicles, (which is not a great samaritan quality, but something that I am proud of for the sake of fearlessness it gives me) or more generally, not to be stunned if lost in a new place..I learnt to find my way through..I learnt to travel cattle class as a lone sheep..I learnt not to hate the world when I was sick and to take charge of my physical self, mentally.
The city made me a sovereign individual.

The city changed me cosmetically too..I metamorphosed in the fashion realm from someone who wore "just something" every morning to someone who makes sure the sartorial finish is decent when buying/stitching new clothes. My mind's eye for fashion has been rather jaundiced to get attracted to what I would have considered hopeless, a couple of years ago, and likewise the contrary. I had a quite a few unofficial designers in friends, who were considerate enough to "stand" someone not quite contemporary, and advise this fine art. Advice in art, is not always easy, as one might think..Thanks folks..
I guess Bangalore does this to every woman, if she is truly one..

Of course this city has many "bads" too, the irksome traffic, the overzeal to overspend and a fast deteriorating fused amoebic culture. Its a cosmopolitan melange of people from different parts of the country as much as it is a mix of the good and the bad, (and the ugly), .It is a global city..where one learns to see an eagle's eye of the world. I'll miss this city, the 100 ft road, the Subway, Jute Cottage, Khadi Bhandar outlets, the Saturday evening meditated walks to the neighborhood temples, and of course, the people who have made a difference in my life , in this city - friends who have stood by me during my low-tide times, friends who have added sugar and spice to my life and a few good men, who redefined human values and taught me to look beyond the barriers set by one's native society.

As I stand prepared to bid adieu, with a reformed look and better looking bags, I realize that I "can handle anything, I am afterall, myself"! Thank you, dear Bangalore..

Aug 2, 2009

As the crow flies...

I am terribly attracted to a crow these days, a one-eyed, one-legged black fowl which visits our window-sill on the dot at noon during our daily lunch. It is probably some sort of modified conditioned reflex, just that its my mother who had stimulated the trigger instead of good old Pavlov, and that it is the crow, instead of the standard fat guinea pig or the poor pretty white mouse.

It all began on a customary note. It is an ancient practice with South Indian families to feed a crow with the daily delicacies (even a simple delicacy like white rice). The passed-down reason quoted is that the crow symbolizes the ancestors ("pithrukkal") and that feeding the "pithrukkal" was as pivotal as feeding the existing mortals in the family. There is usually no dearth of crows in this part of the world, so it wasn't any surprise when a bunch of crows lunged at the pithrukkal-feed on the first day. They pecked at a few morsels, ingested the food, exchanged deja-vu looks and flew to the other window-sills to sample the neighboring feeds. The major portion of our feed lay on the window-sill, unfinished. Maybe the pithrukkal didnt devour the modern-day rice and vegetables, I'd rather blame it on the fertilizers!

And then,one day, after the usual bunch were done with their routine, the one-legged crow flew in, alone. He (or she, not sure which one) was a little too wary of humans, maybe because of the handicap. He (lets assume so) first nibbled at a sample, looked up at me and my mother who were witnessing the act from a distance with great expectations, sort of winked at us (I swear I saw the one eye wink) and eagerly gobbled large portions of the feed. Encouraged that the offerings have been gracefully accepted, my mother added a couple of complimentary starters like vadas and special rice to the intial feed , which were also ardently feasted on. He nodded to us (slightly though) before flying away. Some polite ancestor!!

Since then, he flies in everyday, and is now an inspiration for my mother to try speciality food. He dosen't seem to mind delays or breaks (when we are traveling out of the city) and can patiently wait for half an hour , perched on a nearby tree branch. His favorite dish, my mother has gathered , seems to be well-prepared curd rice, especially with the green chillies. It was also recently discovered that he prefers plain rice to basmati rice.

I had not particulary noticed crows until then , probably because of their abundance in my neighborhood. They weren't remarkably good-looking birds, nor did they have sweet vocal chords deep down those beaks. And I wasn't an ornithologist or a birder. Crows reminded me of "Sani Bhagwan" (his "vahana" was supposedly the crow) , mythological tales (when it actually lost its one-eye to a curse from Lord Rama, when Indra's son Jayanth impersonated the poor crow and tried to play tricks with Sita)and the proverbial fables (Aesop's fable when a resourceful crow manages to drink water from a deep pitcher) and the South Indian "paati sutta vada" fable, where an unthinking selfish crow loses its stolen vada to a shrewd fox giving in to a plot-praise. Interestingly, the crow is portrayed as an intelligent creature in one fable (Aesop's fable) and as a sort of dumb one in another. It is rather difficult for humans to arbitrate on the intelligence quotient of the bird, especially considering Darwin's evolutionary complexities. And am not sure if the crow is actually one-eyed since the days of Rama's curse. Hopefully the crow knows better.

Things changed after I met the one-legged friend. I notice crows keenly these days. I look forward to meeting my friend (and that eye-encounter) whenever I am in Chennai. Not sure if the feeling is mutual though, for when I was taking an evening stroll today on the terrace, I saw him perched on a branch which looked like a rendezvous in the trees, with another crow, oriented rather closely. Good Luck, dear friend!!

May 16, 2009

Pink Blues...

I am frequenting a gym again..The "signs" were out there for quite some time..And I refused to acknowledge them for a while...until this friend who has a naturally sharp eye for these signs, acceded their presence..The pounds were probably visible to the extraneous naked eye...notwithstanding the camouflages and concealment. So, there's no time to lose..the inches have to be lost...There is this new women's fitness center in the neighborhood - Pink (Fitness One's initiative). I enquire, I go and I enroll, for a quarter-term.Its after all a few inches...and wouldn't a few months do?

Habitually, I look around and evaluate the gym (after footing the bill).. The gym has a good-looking receptionist and even better looking models, smiling with their shining teeth and half bitten green apples from the posters. And some more disporting those hour- glass or water-glass figures in various positions (exercise positions), flaunting their biceps and concave abs, and shapely (or shapeless? ) obelics. I take a keener (and sadder) look at some of those...and instinctively conjure up a few images of myself amongst them, and with brightened hopes, I vow to return the next morning...On my way back, I motivate myself, getting a few "branded" workout apparel. All plans laid, I go to sleep, dreaming of those figurines on the posters..

Day One - Now, waking up in the morning is not what I do best everyday..I force myself into thinking of those focal naval concavities in an attempt to impel my senses...and move myself out of bed (The first Move It...). I prepare a cup of hot tea and gulp it down with a few cookies..well, you need energy to work out, dont you ? I change to the conventional workout appearance, and set out on my fifteen-minute-intermittent-jog-walk to the gym, greeting and evading a couple of stray dogs in the course of my journey. The day break is a pretty placid scene..a few sleepy middle-aged men in apparently what seems to be their nightwear sent to the milk booths to fetch the milk packets for the morning tea, the road-side shops half-opening their shutters to call it a day-break, and of course the co-gymmers and joggers with their sneakers and ipods.

I reach the gym on time, congratulating myself on a well-walked journey. Am welcomed warmly and introduced to my trainer. She is a petite female, not one of those figurines , and has her sins well obscured (you know what I mean!!). She asks me to walk the treadmill again. "But I came walking for 10 minutes.." I try protesting, and embark on my physical adventure on the treadmill. I take a well-deserved break after the first 5 mins of peregrinating on the treadmill, and use the break wisely to scrutinize around. There are definately more amusing goods in the gym, than the banal digital meters and the run-on-the-mill machines.

I see women of all sizes and unique fettle. Some look exquisitely young, until you get to notice their faces, dedicatedly running on the treadmills and performing some wierd acts like hand-grinding a non-existing hand-grinder, rotating the arms centripetally. In the yester-years, these were called manual jobs , while in this newfangled era, these are called exercises. There was a particularly compelling character, who looked quite made-up in her evening-attire, who walked in with a cute handbag, and a big fat book, switched on the fan, planted the handbag, ipod in their respective sockets, started the slow pedalling of the cycle, whilst concentrating on the book and the music. I am shaken off from my trance by my trainer. "Move It", she orders and I dolefully go back to my run on the mill.

The next morning, I cant't force myself to think of those figurines, and even when I do, I can't move myself out of bed. I steal a typical another 10 mins of precious sleep for the next 30 minutes, and end up late in the gym, inspite of the auto-rickshaw ride. I "move it" for about 20 minutes in the various stretching machines, joggers, cycles and treadmills with sporadic intervals to sneak out under the A/C. Not-to-mention the abs-exercises in lying positions for "toning up" and the weights for "lean muscle building".

It's been a month and a half now. I earnestly check my weight on the digital machine hoping for a loss of a couple of pounds...And Lo and Behold, I've procured 200 additional grams ..."Its metabolism", the trainer explains..."yours is unique"...Well, I am probably special in every pound of flesh that I possess.

Feb 28, 2009

History is His-Story

Somebody in my commute shuttle made this rather observant observation the other day - "India seems to be dazed with potential confrontations from neighbors on all frontiers - east, west , south and the north" ( or any of their angular permutations)....And that seemed to half-open some fatigued mind's eye in my mind.. Another somebody in the same shuttle nodded dispiritedly (his spectacles notwithstanding the nod) and posed this rather oft-repeated , but seldom-answered philosophical pointer - "What is your suggestion offered as a solution to all these world issues?"... I happened to be the unfortunate creature sitting opposite to this another somebody, and consequently, my eyes met his, just as he completed his nugget. And that eye-encounter completely opened up my half-open mind's eye - I blurted out loud - "India should inculcate spirituality to its citizens and the rest of the world"..Was that something close to 42?

A quick and so possibly inaccurate analysis of the root causes of the state's issues delineates the following - religion, ethnicity, simple economic or social freedom or more profound political hegemony. These, in reality in most cases, are not the causes, but alibis. Nine times out of ten, offenses seem to be committed in the name of these causes, supposedly for these causes, and by the torchbearers of these causes, but on another astute look, these are committed to satiate the voluptuous animal-instinct-driven desire to "even-out" the previous offenses. It's all in the individual's mind...the human ego is the most dangerous entity in the world...If that is brought under considerable control, some (and a considerable some) of the prevalent issues might be addressed.

Getting spiritual, in the exact sense of the word is a daunting (maybe a little fatuous) thing to ask for , to the happy-go-lucky youthful citizen of the state. Not many would remain tongue-tied or limbs-tied when confronted in a nasty verbal duel, but most folks,
can circumvent the start of any verbal duel at all, with just "some tolerance to the supposedly extraneous elements of culture and brotherhood".

Thatz the keyword - tolerance. If the slum-dwelling or bungalow-residing citizen of the state understands that there is a world much bigger than their biggest slums or bungalows and which has interspersed cultures and societies that have evolved in much similar ways as theirs, and learn to tolerate the non-congruent pieces of the similar cultures, and realize the folly of expending their seemingly infinite energies on frivolous diminutives,would certainly bring down the number of emanating bitter broils, if not control all the existing feuds.

Am not indoctrinating complete obeisance to injustice or infiltration, a state and its societies ought to be bolstered by a daunting defense system, that dosen't attack at the drop of a gun. Not to trike back when struck, to disobey and to disregard the opponent are, in my opinion, more powerful weapons, that those emerging from the nucleus of the atom, for they miniscule the more threatening entity - the human ego. However, it takes a great deal of maturity of the mind to practise non-violence. Considering India's Independence story and the great soul who championed non-violence, it is seemingly not totally impossible in India. That calls for another pedestal of mind though, and more surmountingly, another Gandhi. Nonetheless, tolerance , the first step toward non-violence is quite probable. So, let's look within before we leap...

Jan 30, 2009

Child is the Father of Man!!

Paradoxes are prepossessing...paradoxes in people or paradoxes in proverbs..The beauty of a paradox is perhaps its quizzical complexity or the challenge it offers in unwinding the wired "usual" perception of things in general. This one (the title paradox) is no exception...When I (the average human blessed with average intellect) try to discern the paradox, it fails me at first attempt..How can a child become a father, of any man or mankind? How at all would one elucidate this statement - biologically or religiously or spiritually ?

Most times, the most intricate knots are unwired only to unravel more intricate knots, at times, they unravel some nascent truths, naked to the human eye and yet, nebulous to the human intellect. The title paradox was romantically nebulous to me for a long while (romantic because it had been stated by the most romantic poets of all times - William Wordsworth), until recently, when I chanced to watch this Tamil movie 'Abhiyum Naanum'. I've never been a great Tamil movie buff, but this one stands out among other pluses, in its silent yet potent explanation of this paradox..Man becomes a complete Man, when he fathers a child, biologically, emotionally and intellectually...So its a child that maketh a man..Child fathers a man...Child is the Father of Man...

This explanation, has its own fallacies since, it is quite circumscribed by the capacities or incapacities of my limited intellect and its interpretation. There could be several other plausible explanations..Afterall, its poetry at its romantic best..its left open to the reader's interpretation. There's another exegesis, which I'd like to believe is credible enough..Have you ever wondered in any typical "happy family setup", (say the Indian middle class family), how a child, initally as a infant and later as a toddler, depends on its parents for its physical needs, learns how to walk or talk from its parents, learns the first alphabet from its parents, submits atleast selectively to the parents' authority, and grows old? And when the child grows old enough, the parents depend on the child for their emotional needs, have to learn to use the latest technological necessities of the age from the child (and keep praying for the pedagogical patience in imparting the supposedly obvious tech-stuff) and submit to the child's authority during the generation gap quibbles ? As the child grows, the child becomes the father...the patriarch of the house...while the biological father evolves to his second childhood - sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

A child is a child while he is still growing...when Man is the father...Man speaks and the child listens...and when the child has sufficiently and relatively "grown up", the child speaks and Man listens...the child is no longer a child, he is the father...the patriarch

If you are able to discern the rationale in that exposition, you are probably as insane as I am :) , if you haven't or unwilling to accept the argument, I'd be pleased to hear your contentions...In any case, lets pamper the child in us...Its after all the enlightening hope to mankind...