I finally publish

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Bad Wednesday...

 Posted by Hello

I must have been five. A little older or a little younger. But definitely around there…

Sr. Tessie was my class teacher… yes, five I was. School was fun. I learnt a strange language called English. I learnt to say a lot of meaningless things and perfectly.

“Jack and Jill went up the hill…”
Who Jack? Who Jill? And as if I care!

Afternoons we slept. Sr. Tessie sang songs- which kept me awake… but I slept when she stopped singing.

With a child’s unerring instinct I knew Sr. Tessie knew Malayalam. I spoke not a word of English to her. She coaxed, she threatened, she called my poor parents… She prayed!

But slowly the magic of the language crept in. a whole new world of fairies and elves, of dark witches and cruel step mothers, of giants and dwarves… I went with Cinderella to the ball… I slept through years with Sleeping beauty… I cried my heart out with the ugly duckling…

Rhymes were easy. They never meant anything at all to me… but I liked to repeat them.

Riding on the tank of daddy’s Enfield by the beach every morning on the way to school, I would spurt every rhyme I knew… once all the rhymes were done and if I was still perched on the bullet- I would begin on commercials… and sing all the ones I knew…

“Solidare for sports… Solidare for Sunday movies…
We know what we want, we want Solidare…”

And then…

“Get the best out of life…
Get the best keep in touch…
Get the latest Dyanora…
Keep in touch…”

If I reached school before my daily quota of rhymes and commercials were over, I wouldn’t get down. I would sit there on the black tank of daddy’s bike and sing until I sang it all. Daddy would patiently wait for the whole show to be over, and then lift me down once the mouth was closed.

I would then walk in through the gate, turn around and wave. First at daddy. Then to all the parents who came to drop their children… I would wave till they caught my eye and wave back… or I would wave till the watchman at school carried me still waving and kicking, inside to Sr. Tessie…

Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go.
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for a living,
But the child born on the Sabbath Day,
Is fair and wise and good and gay. “

That was the rhyme we were taught that day. And we had homework. To go home and find out which day each of us were born…

I had a sinking feeling… Even the school bell didn’t cheer me up. Seeing daddy didn’t. a ride on the bike didn’t. I didn’t sing.

We stopped at the beach. Brown, warm peanuts wrapped in newspaper cones.

We sat on a bench facing the sea… I looked at my tiny legs and wondered how long they will have to grow before they can touch the ground… the way Daddy’s were now.

But then I wouldn’t be able to swing my legs as well, would I?

Swing left… swing right… swing left…swing right…

So busy was I swinging my feet, that I almost forgot…

“Which day was I born Acha?” (Acha-daddy); I broke the silence.

Daddy’s brow creased. I knew he didn’t know the answer.

I peeled off the brown skin of the peanuts…they were a little brown inside…I quickly put the whole lot of them into my mouth…

Daddy said; “We’ll look it up. Or we’ll ask Amma”

Going home, that was the first thing I did. Asked Amma. She knew everything. I was born at 9.55 AM, on the 1st of October. My zodiac. My sun sign. My moon sign. And all the other signs that exist… not the day I was born…

I didn’t do my homework that day. Never before did I feel so bad about not doing my homework.

I knew it though… I was sure I was born on a Wednesday… I don’t remember much… I hardly remember things. But that day is so clear… I was waiting for either of my parents- who knew all the answers or at least pretended to- to prove me wrong… I knew they wouldn’t though…

I walked into daddy’s room. That’s the room where he had his blue typewriter; his law books, a painted picture of grandpa, where he hid his cigarettes…

A whole lot of books were on the ground. I could smell dust in the air. Though Amma tried her level best to keep the house spic and span- she met her Nemesis in daddy’s room. The shelves were too high to be dusted standing on the tip of her toes. The shelves were too high to be dusted standing on a chair. The shelves were too high for her to find out that’s where daddy stored his cigarettes…

Daddy was looking for something. I sat down beside him on the floor. Daddy looked at me and smiled. I smiled back. Daddy was nice.

He finally found what he was looking for… a little black book.
“What’s that?”, I asked.

“A diary”

“Milk?” me.

Acha smiled and said; “This you cannot eat. No- I don’t mean as in a dare” (because I think he remembered how I eaten a whole page of the newspaper as part of a dare…)
“You shouldnt eat this...This is a book where people write what happens in their lives, generally. Your Amma uses it to write….maths”.

Trust Amma to do something as boring as that! I waited to see what daddy was going to do with it. Daddy was interesting.

He sat down on his favorite chair. I clambered up and sat on his knee.

I put my head on his chest. I could hear the thump-thump of his heart. I liked hearing it. I already felt better…

“You were born on a Wednesday”.

I felt sick. “Wednesday?”

Acha pointed to the black book, which had told him that I was born on a Wednesday.

“Wednesday's child is full of woe”, I said in a small voice.

Putting it down as one of the innumerable rhymes I chanted, daddy lifted me and put me down. Giving me a friendly pat, he said, “Run along. I have a little to read…”

I ran out…

I don’t like Wednesdays… Wednesday's child is full of woe.

Monday, March 21, 2005

The second cucumber

The title does not reflect anything I have written below. I couldn’t think of one good enough. I am tired of finding words or single lines which describe more than half an hours' typing.

Thoroughly exhausted I was last night. Talking to the newest addition to our two bedroom apartment was an effort. US returned, minus the accent, yet another IT employee to the already crowded Chennai city- meet my new roommate.

Past 8 months, I was given the privilege of a single room. Three of my roommates slept in the other, while I moved around in my room.

Yesterday, I shared my room. I was too tired to wonder whether I liked it or not.

Pulling out my bed, I crawled into it… on my left I saw the familiar sight of my books, all carelessly arranged, turning to my right I saw my new room mate. I turned left again…

Sleep proved elusive… I wondered- what could be wrong? The television was as usual playing an unfamiliar language. My one room mate was on the phone. Reassuring thumping noises from the children upstairs… then what could be wrong? Was it because of the already sleeping figure beside me?

It was then that I realized. My room(I am not ready to share it yet!) was totally dark. The familiar orange light was missing. I sat up suddenly. Slumping tiredly out of my room, I padded out to our balcony.

My room mate followed a few minutes later to ask, “What’s wrong?”

I could only point to the street. Looking at the direction of my finger, she saw what I did. Someone had broken the neon light…

Laughing she said, “Someone’s taken your blog too seriously!”

I walked back inside. Lying in the for once totally dark room, I couldn’t sleep- this time because that wretched neon light didn’t glow!

Thursday, March 17, 2005

I wish I believed this...

 Posted by Hello

One night I had a dream.

I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
one belonging to me and one to my Lord.

When the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.

I noticed that many times along the path of
my life there was only one set of footprints.

I also noticed that it happened at the very
lowest and saddest times in my life.

This really bothered me and I
questioned the Lord about it:

"Lord, you said that once I decided to follow
you, you'd walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed that during the most
troublesome times in my life,
there is only one set of footprints.
I don't understand why when
I needed you most you would leave me."

The Lord replied:

"My son, my precious child,
I love you and I would never leave you.
During your times of trial and suffering,
when you see only one set of footprints,
it was then that I carried you."

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The boy in my office…

I don’t remember when exactly that I first laid my eyes on him… was it on the days of the innumerable rounds of interviews… or was it after joining… But the first time I saw him, I stood there visibly shocked. This guy looked amazingly like someone I knew... someone who was nice… someone I stayed clear from because he was so nice that I did not want to subject him to me… he was too good to be hurt by me and I liked him a lot. I always have hurt the ones that I love most…in irreparable ways…

Well, back to the hero of my story… I smiled at nobody… coz by the time I’d made my discovery he was long gone… I wished from that day onwards that my dentist had done a better job! All my smiles were in vain… they were supposed to me, “I want to talk to you… don’t ask me why though”- well I guess the message was just as complicated as the sender because he never understood! I should have tried smiling simpler messages!

It was close to 6 that evening… this is many days of futile smiles later! As I was saying, it was leaving time. And I was doing just that… climbing down from the 7th floor to the 6th- I had to meet someone there when I saw him… he was on a call…

Conveniently… please- I didn’t ‘arrange’ anything- had I done that; that would have been the surest way for things to go wrong. Well, conveniently he finished my call, while I was still waiting and began his ascent to the 7th floor… this guy works late man! And I, gauche-this word was made to describe me… well, I croaked, “Hi…” the moment that wretched word was out of my mouth I hoped fervently he’d never heard it… But he did. Turning around, he looked questioningly but managed a “Hi…”

Stretching out my hand I said, “Me”. He said.... I swear I didn’t hear what he said. But it didn’t really matter because you see, I already knew his name. Not so futile a week huh?
I who hate clichés, said something overused but totally truthful; “You look so very like someone I know”. Well… so what? Had he said that- I sure don’t know what would have happened… I don’t know whether what happened was better or worse, coz he said, “Oh”. Well, you know my “ohs”.

Conversation stalled here. I didn’t know what to say. And he didn’t want to! Why don’t I ever feel even vaguely interested in guys who can reciprocate? Or I am haunted by people whom I just don’t care to get to know…

It was one of the rare classes that were free in 1998. We were in our final year of schooling- the much dreaded 12th standard. The class was buzzing… a rare chance to keep books out of sight and talk all kinds of nonsense that girls of 17 talk.

I remember, I was sitting quite aloof- that rarely happens... But that particular day I was listening detachedly to the conversation around. Girija had just discovered palmistry, or so she claimed. Sweaty palms were pushed eagerly in front of her face with exclamations like, “Read mine”. She was clever, Girija was. She didn’t overdo it….just enough information to make everyone believe that she actually knew what she claimed to, and enough to thrill all the girls. I was amused. Well I could read palms too then…

I was roused from my detached air when someone pulled that part of my body called my hand, and pulling me along with it- it never went anywhere without me… pushed it in front of Girija’s face and atop several palms, said; “Read hers”. Well I don’t know if it was the word that was different from the one used so far, ‘mine’… or it was because people were always interested in anything concerned with me, but all the other palms were withdrawn.

I was left holding my outstretched hand, with a broken nail right under Girija’s nose, so much so that I felt I could feel her breath! I hastily pulled it back, when my poor arm was yanked back- it’s a wonder it stays with me still; by none other than my class’s latest palmist.

I had not been very nice to her… I wasn’t generally very nice to anybody. But all the 56 girls in my class accepted me this way, they knew that good or bad I was never nice to them when I didn’t like them!

Looking at my palm, she said to the now silent class a lot of things which made all the girls nod all the time. Hell, I would have said this without looking at my palm! She then said something that would come back to haunt me many times later, “The person you love will never love you… and you are cursed to be loved by people whom you can never love!”

I’d admired her creativity then…the whole class gasped. It sounded like a huge balloon deflating. 56 jobless girls… 56 jobless 17 year olds! My laugh broke the spell that day. Laughing rudely I pulled my hand away and walked back to my seat…

Girija, wherever you are… I am sorry I laughed at you that day. Palmist you are or not, I sure agree what you said that day holds true…

Well, coming back to my story… did I have to be interested in a rare species of men called, ‘leave-me-alone-I-am-not-interested’!?

The day I talked to him, he handed over his resignation. Please… please do not credit me for this event. It so happened…

I went on to discover that this guy was from IIT and was leaving to study higher… an MBA…

Before you wonder, no it’s not a crush…! Love? Not again! It was something that I could not really define… I still cant… it could be because he looks like someone I like… it could be that I liked the way he smiled…

Internal communication in my office is made better through something called “Sametime”. There was hardly a month more before he would leave… and I would never be sure if I would see him again…and I wanted to talk to him… So I did just that…

Day 1
Me: Hi… This is me.
Him: Hi…
Me (wondering what to say!): Congrats.
Him: Thank you.
---- Long pause----
(How do they do it… all the people who make conversation so effortlessly to strangers?)
Me (after 10 minutes of frantically wondering what to say): Uh…so when are you joining?
Him: April 15th.
(Movie stars could learn from him. Politicians. And my grandma)
Me (another desperate attempt at conversation): Is your work here all over and wrapped up?
(I know he’d just submitted his report to be edited… but hell, he didn’t know I knew did he!)
Him: not quite.
Me- totally clueless as to what to talk. ?????

Day 2
Me: Hi…
Him: Hey…
Me: Busy?
(I am totally uncreative!)
Him: Not very.
(Cant this guy talk!)
Me: Is it: 1. You are generally quiet 2. You are busy 3. Me
(Applaud! I am brilliant!)
Him: point 1 and 2
Me (after long thought!): ok… when you finish point 2; overcome 1 and feel like talking to point 3, ping me.
Him: ok

Day 3
I write this…

Hey you boy in my office- if you ever read this…. Well....read it again!

Kati Patang...

Balu…. I’d heard of him a long time before I actually got to meet him. And if I liked him from what I heard… I liked him more when I met him…Here is something he’s written:

“I am sending you something I’ve written. Although I must confess that when I read it again just now, it seems a lot more boring. I am however sending it to u bcoz u seem to be dishing out a lot of crap on ur blogs :) I’ll consider u as my blogspot, coz I’m too lazy to open an account and blog anywhere. Plus, I don't care a damn :)”

Balu... I have not changed anything- except a little here and there… its your story and will always remain yours…

"It always does things to me, a cup of strong, stimulating chaay. Even this morning, as I was sitting there in my shop - I am a regular there. Not that there was anything special about today. If anything, it was very foggy. At about 6:30, it was foggier than most other days. My Amma once told me that heavy fogs foretell the coming of summer. Not that we have anything close to a winter in south India. Out here, they say, one can experience only two climates - the hot and the hotter! And so as I set out for my early morning chaay-sutta, I was a little weary about the fog. The summers here can be extremely oppressive, the humidity making it all the more irksome. It still is better off than most of the temperate places though. The dry heat in places like Delhi almost kills me. I'd rather sweat like a pig than roast in the dry heat.

Let me begin where I began. I was sipping my chaay and having a couple of drags alternatively at the famed cancer stick when the thought occurred to me. My life so far...I can't choose the right word to describe how it has gone. Well for one, I have never planned anything. Even while everyone was busy planning their careers right from high school - its amazing how people work in this part of the world. From the time you are 16, you are expected to work out a plan for the next 15-20 years or so. Which stream to graduate in and where to do it. If or not one would post graduate - its becoming almost a necessity now, more so if you happen to be an engineer. Every Tom, Dick and (Bi)hari happens to be an engineer. More so in T.N - all you need is a two storey building to start off an engineering college. Never mind the lack of a library, laboratories, even workshops, let alone a decent cafetaria! You are even expected to know if you'd choose to pursue studies further, like these nerds who end up doing a doctorate and end up in some research laboratory. Wait, its not over, you are even expected to plan when you'll have a house, get wedded and 'settle down', as they call it. No other clichéd phrase has troubled me so much as this one. I wonder what one earth Amma means when she has that troubled look one her face and asks me when I am going to settle down. Anyways, what I was saying is that you are expected to virtually have a blue print of your life ahead - such geeks are called the smart ones.

And here was I - an average student from what my school results would say. I have never been more than that, thankfully. And fate, as it would have it, took me to one of the 'premiere institutes' in the country. Less than a month down the line, I discovered it was far from it. A year later, I'd laugh if anyone used that term to describe my college. I don't know what it was that caused it really, but I just lost all the interest (if any!) that I had in academics. As time went by, all I was bothered about was passing my papers. Anything more than a C or a D grade would be too far fetched. An 'E' was frequently, and graciously accepted. I had a few close shaves, but managed to clear all my papers in the first attempt. A job on campus seemed elusive in the beginning, but later did come my way. I felt relieved and there was a lot of celebration. For friends, it was just another excuse to party. Sure, there were some of those genuine guys who were really happy for me - for they knew heart of hearts that what they thought was impossible, or at least close to it, had been accomplished.

Work was a new frontier, and in the beginning, I was just plain curious. It would be challenging, stimulating to the grey cells which had long been put to sleep - ever since I got out of school, I thought. Like everything else in life, I got bored if it very soon. I wonder how I keep getting bored of every damn thing in this world, including myself. Anyways, I kept trying to do something at work and kept at it for more than a year. Then there came a time when I decided I’ll kick the job. What I’d hence do, I hadn't the vaguest idea. And I wasn't too worried either. I was 22, and I suppose I had the time to sit back and think of what I want to do.

It was when I was damn sure that I’d quit the job that I came across this. Two years they said, I’ll have to serve the country-for two years through them. All I had to do was try and meet youngsters and try and inspire them. Didn’t sound all that bad and being the crazy guy that I am, I didn't think twice. Just gave my resignation the very next day. And now, here I am. I have a few more months to go for the official two year period to end. What I’ll do after that I have no clue. Strangely this time, I seem to be getting a lil worried about it. I keep brooding about it, but don't seem to find any answers. As one of my newest friends rightly said, I’m one hell of a confused soul.

And so I’ve decided to put away all the worrying, consciously. Nothing I’ve done so far as been planned. Call it destiny or by any other name, but every where I’ve been so far is where life has taken me, not where I’ve wanted or decided to go. Everything I’ve done has been what has happened, not my actions out of a deep desire to act so. Life for me has been a journey without a destination. To put it short, I’ve just been flowing with the tide.

And I’ve decided I’ll continue doing just that, no matter what you may think. I’m the 'kati patang'..."

Friday, March 11, 2005


“We do our own cooking”, my flat mate had informed me.

“Oh”, a monosyllable to express the torrent of thoughts running through my mind. Would they give me a little portion of the food they cooked or is it thou-eats-whatever-thou-cooks? And more so, what would a non-cook(ahem, diplomacy doesnt always work!) like me cook? But I condensed all those questions into the laconic, "Oh".

The first morning, I picked up my green plate (oh yes, that is the color of my plate!) and walked hesitantly to the kitchen. Hot, crisp dosas were placed on my plate- my flat mate did the honors that day. I waited- sambar? Chutney? Or the ‘podi’ that is common to Tamil Nadu…?

‘Curd’ was the right answer… not fair, because it never even crossed my mind as a possibility…

I learnt that the greatest capacity of humans is the ability to adapt.

“Curd” became or universal solution. I learnt that one could eat curd with anything- Uppuma, dosa, ‘sevai’ (I ate that thing for the first time in my life when my flat mate made it!), and of course rice.

Fed up with eating the same thing so many times over, I said yesterday, “I am gonna cook today”.

There was a stunned silence in the room. For you see I hardly did that. Beyond boiling the milk everyday and making an occasional tea, the kitchen was to me a place to sit when my flat mate cooked. I would entertain her with stories… incidents that happened yesterday, today or years before…while she stirred the vessel in whatever was to be that day’s dinner gurgled on…

Marching into the vegetable market as part of my declaration I bought all the vegetables I knew and could identity and proudly carried my colorful bag back home.

Reaching home, a quick bath and out of the starched and stiff working clothes of the day, into wrinkled clothes smelling of soap I changed. I knew that sitting down on the pink plastic chairs at home and picking up the remote of the television would be disastrous.

Slice vegetable after vegetable I did. Carrots were diced. Onions were sliced. Watering eyes were washed several times. Sniffling, beans were cut. Potatoes peeled... a little bit of my skin too. 5 minutes spent on searching for the band aid. Putting it on and I must add not very well, for I felt all clumsy after the adhesive was put on. And water didn’t help. Finally and exasperatedly pulling off the strip, which was anyway not in the place it should be, I went back to work.

Rotis and egg curry was the menu- I decided it. I knew not to make anything else. Anyway after weeks of dosas and eating out, it was a welcome change.

Answering the door to my flat mates knock, for you see our door bell never rings... I pulled my bewildered flat mate inside, coz she was standing hesitantly owing to the unfamiliar sounds that could be heard outside... Oh I didn’t tell you did I, I pulled out an (kindly note the article), AN utensil to put all the vegetables, when the wretched lot of all of them fell liberally. I am quite nifty, I discovered that day… I jumped around on my toes evading the falling torrent of vessels and got hit just once. Quite a female Jackie Chan I am, I thought proudly.

Mixing the flour for the rotis, I sat down for the first time that evening. Late evening…. My flat mate seeing me, said kindly, “Do you want me to roll it”.

“No”, I firmly said. 'Today is your break. An off ok...", I told the IT programmer who lives with me. I learnt that they do not really understand the word 'break' which to them is synonymous to a coffee cup in hand, you drink the dark liquid or not...

Well...to cut a long story short(couldnt think of anything else to avoid this cliché) I made the egg curry which my flat made wiped clean with the rotis; while I watched with evident pleasure- I couldn’t stop smiling.

Coming back after washing her plate and watching our young neighbors, my flat mate found me asleep, curled on the pink plastic chair…. too tired to eat…

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Orange glow and eerie shadows...

The 45 kilos which I now am thanks to the undaunted efforts of my mother to fatten me( I feel like a chicken when I write this!) have to be retained. Strict instructions from her- before she sends her daughter out into the world. Knapsack in hand (to be read as 4 suitcases and a couple of bags!), I ventured out from the confines of my home and city; 8 months back…

A dilapidated building, with peeling paint … a small two bedroom apartment in one corner of that huge city called Chennai.

The first night I slept, rather tried sleeping, I was rudely woken… “Whhrrrrrr……”. Oh, don’t you be scared- its nothing but our garbage van on a collection spree! Peering myopically at my cell phone, I read the time, “1.15”!!

But I learnt to sleep… amidst honks from the numerous vehicles that so adorn the roads of Chennai, amidst the whirring and grinding noise-my vocabulary has been searched thoroughly for a word to describe that particular noise, but I fail! Amidst the thumping noises while the kids in the apartment on top of mine play- oh yes, at 11 in the night and later… Amidst the Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam songs that blare out of television that my flat mates watch- not one of them is from Andhra or Kerala- late into the night…

Amidst the lights from the neon street lamps that fall into the bedroom… I cant escape those lights… I have repositioned my bed in all angles…One night I slept looking at Tidel Park through the walls… another night I faced Pondicherry…One night I even slept diagonally…But still the neon light watches me sleep…throwing an ornage glow on my face... throwing eerie shadows on walls with peeling paint...

Photo: Arun

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Those summers in God's own country...

Piping hot ‘chaaya’ cups in hand and golden yellow banana chips piled on a plate…. That’s the picture evenings in Kerala bring to mind… And pray why this ‘evenings in Kerala’? Well I just talked to my people over the phone…

My mother’s place in Kerala must be one of the most beautiful places I have seen- true I have not seen many… But who said, beauty is comparative? Or if anyone did- I beg to differ.

We have this huge house there, huger fields, a small pond, a shared stretch of river with our neighbors and the whole of the other places the river feels like traversing, snakes and toads, throw in a few hundred frogs…. A toilet separate from the house… a well with the coolest and sweetest water ever…trees I have climbed up and not been able to climb down…

Oh I almost forgot the animals… hens I’ve run behind, hens I’ve sat beside patiently for hours, willing them to lay an egg… and then as soon as they start clucking lift them up and hold the warm brown egg… carefully carry them over to grandma who saved them for the evenings when we would be served omelets with porridge…

The clean stables where our cows ‘Parvati’ and ‘Lakshmi’ slept…. Cows would come and cows would go- but the names were perennial. While I was young and did not know death… it seemed natural that they lived every year. And once I was older and knew death, I questioned to which I was answered; “oh- the old Lakshmi died. This is a new Lakshmi”

The pesky goat of our ‘Christian’ neighbors that eats everything... I’m telling you- everything. I used to be scared of falling asleep on the armchair of my grandfather’s that was placed in the courtyard… away from the sweltering heat, under the sunshade…what if the ‘pesky’ goat of our ‘Christian’ neighbors ate me?

The largest tree I ever saw. The tree that grew and grew and would reach the sky one day… the tree on who’s top sat the ‘yekshi’( that’s Malayalam for witch). The beautiful ‘yekshis’ who would jump down from the tree tops and ask humans, “Can I have some betel leaf please”; so that they could redden their red lips and lure unwary humans and suck their blood…. I still stay clear from that tree.

The son of our ‘Christian’ neighbors who would sneak over and ask me to count numbers in English. Who would burst into peals of laughter on hearing me count… I would stop counting when he laughed. He would always coax me into counting again, by giving me big fat juicy mulberries. Purple mulberries whose juice ran when you bit into them...onto the white frocks that I wore all the time. They were all the same. Sleeveless white frocks… If you were not careful, they would squirt onto people too.

A small attempt at a boat that someone made… waiting for the lovers …I would sit ages near it waiting for the elusive lovers to turn up. And hours later grandma would come looking for me and while carrying me back home would say, “They are lovers. They don’t want anyone to see them do they?” “But…” I would protest, “I just want to see… I won’t even touch anything…”

Something I wrote when I was 15

On reading it, a person who works for a French newspaper said- "Very moralistic...."! And all I could think of was... at least my stories are...

“Chameli”, I screamed. A beautiful, weather beaten face looked up and broke into a smile on seeing me. I skipped happily up to her and questioned, “What are you doing?” She was plastering her house with cow dung. She replied humorously, “I am protecting my house from little devils like you!” then “when did you come little one? How are sahib and the mistress?” I dutifully answered. She went into her house and returned with a glass of cool ‘sherbet’, which I sipped on happily, while she continued her work. Occasionally she would turn, look at me and smile…while I sat contentedly- just watching her…

Chameli was a mourner. Her mother was one and so was her grandmother. They never expected her to become anything else, anyway….

She was my only companion in my grandmother’s place. We were popular figures out there and were much respected by everybody. Rajasthan held a fascination for me- Rajasthan with its vast desert, scorching sun and of course, Chameli. My mother never understood my attachment to Chameli and the pleasure I found in her company. In the busy grown up’s world, it was Chameli who took time to teach me how to climb onto a camel, where the peacock’s danced when it first rained, how to play marbles and so many other things quite unknown to a city bred like me. Chameli and my, our world was not filled things like budgets, automobiles, pollution, terrorism, bills…

She had the most expressive eyes I had ever seen. I still remember the day we were playing marbles and she was uproariously laughing at something I had told her, when someone came in. It was a villager- I had not set my eyes on him before and I prided on my knowledge of every local. He said something to Chameli, which was too rapid for me to follow. She hastily packed up a few things and was about to leave when I asked her “Can I come too?” and before she could refuse said imploringly “Please…”. She could never resist my ‘please’- I always looked like an angel when I said that!

The man looked irritated and said gruffly “hurry up!!” She held out her hand I confidently placed mine into hers. I prattled all along the way and she too joined in the fun. Way ahead I saw a huge building looming in front of us. She bent down and told me, “Stay where I put you little one. Don’t wander and don’t be scared.” I answered” I’m never scared when I with you Chameli”. And then as an afterthought “Will the lights go off?” She smiled and muttered, “I shouldn’t have brought you, but now it is too late”. She made me stand near a pillar, which I was one, not even one-fourth the size of, and asked me not to budge. She looked worried and I did not like to see her so, she looked too much like all the grown ups I had seen, so I smiled reassuringly at her and said, “I wont get lost. Take care that you don’t!” she patted my head and went inside.

I looked around. All I could see were a lot of sandals. People were moving in and out continuously. It then struck me- there was been a death in that house. I did not like deaths; the few I had seen were not anything nice. The people who died looked so queer-so rigid and cold. I began feeling a little- only a wee bit; mind you I was 8- uneasy. “If only Chameli were near…” I thought wistfully.

Suddenly without warning bells began to clang and a loud wail ranted the air. I was petrified! It was then that I decided to find Chameli. Throwing all caution to the winds, I ventured inside. The wailing continued, if not louder. If there was anything more than petrified- I was that!!!!

Nobody paid any attention to me- to them I was just another little girl wandering out there. By then I had mastered the art of being present without getting into anybody’s way. I searched frantically for Chameli, my Chameli. There she was, but wait a minute- what was it that she was doing. She, Chameli, My Chameli, was wailing, tearing her hair and beating at her chest. It was eerie. I panicked and ran to the comfort of the pillar that had sheltered me some time back.

Time later, Chameli emerged to see me clinging on to the pillar with all my might as if it were my last straw. She noticed how troubled I was. Taking my cold palms in hers, she led me away. We walked quietly on for sometime with me looking up every two minutes and conforming that I was my old Chameli who was walking with me.

Slightly comforted I said, “I saw you”. She started. Was it my confession or the sudden voice that made her do so, I don’t know.

“How could you?” I continued. She looked at me her eyes full of pain. I persisted “how could you cry like that when only moments ago you were laughing with me?”

We stopped; bending down she said, “Look at me”. I looked into those eyes I had seen a thousand times and loved more each time I looked at them. “It’s my job.” she said, “I get paid for it”.

I did not understand. “Did you know the dead person? Once again I questioned. “No, his people paid me to mourn, to cry…”

A sentence, which my father had said, a few days back flashed through my mind. He had said “Ultimately it’s all money”. I had asked what it meant, but looking at me as if only then he realized I was present and was listening, shrugged it off- like the innumerable questions I had asked before and not got the answers…

I looked at Chameli and said wisely” Ultimately it is all money, isn’t it?”

She did not reply. Then a little later she said, “Let’s see who reaches downhill first…” We raced down, me screaming all the while “me, me, me…”

When my mother came to know of my little adventure she was angry. She pursed up her mouth and forbid me to visit Chameli for the rest of our stay. Imagine that. I was indignant. I tried reasoning “Ma, the snake’s eggs would have hatched by the next time we return and the baby snakes will be out by then!” This was supposed to convince her to let me go but I wondered why her mouth thinned all the more and she said decidedly “Yes, you will stay home henceforth!” I went to sleep that night dreaming of wails, screams and baby snakes that cried…

Then one evening I sneaked out. My parents and grandma had gone to the near by town to attend a wedding. I skipped all the way to Chameli’s house…happy with the thought that I was going to see her. “Maybe I can still see the snakes eggs hatch out…” I thought to myself… to my surprise I found quite a lot of people in front of her house. I looked on curiously. Then I knew- it was a death. “Who died?” I demanded to nobody in particular. An on looker replied “Chameli’s husband”. Oh! Anyway, I did not like him- he rarely washed himself and always smelled of tobacco. I pushed my way forward and looked on interestedly to see if Chameli was morning and wailing…. No she was not.

She was seated in the corner of her hut, palms on her head, head bent down, and eyes full of tears. “Not a sob, not a wail”, I thought sadly, remembering the frightening yet mind blowing experience of the other day.
Chameli looked up to see me staring at her. Tears flowed afresh as she beckoned me in. I went to her and sat on her lap. She kissed me on the head, held me close and rocked me…Me, a part of her sorrow.

After sometime she said” You’d better run home little one, else your mother would be angry”. I nodded. I got up and went a little way only to return. She looked up. “This time it was not for money, was it?”, I asked. Tears flowed on as she replied “No, little one, he did not pay me to cry for him. I cry because I love him.” Satisfied I left the hut.

The sun was setting and gave an orange glow to the sky. I had to be home before any one missed me… “Chameli was strange…” I thought. “Sometimes she cries for money, sometimes for love”.” Any way poor Chameli “, I thought to myself. “She is so poor. Her husband should have paid her!” I angrily exclaimed to myself as I hurried home. Then the revelation struck me.

Me, all of my eight years understood something. I waited for my father to return- to correct him “no father, ultimately it’s not money. Ultimately it’s all love…”

Monday, March 07, 2005

On losing my anonymity

It’s been long… not that I didn’t have anything to say… I do. I do- all then time. But slowly a fear has crept in… of being known. My anonymity goes down the drain with just the url of my blog : poornimavijayan.blogspot.com

And suddenly I am read. By people I don’t know and by people I know. A paltry few… but nevertheless….

But then, haven’t I but shouted from rooftops all I do and when I do? Is there any part of me that is unknown to people who know me? No….

Then why this fear…?

Of losing my privacy I guess. My ‘personal space’ on the wide world of the internet. Of once again being heard… of once again being found interesting… of once again having to entertain… of once again running a race in the need not to disappoint…. Of having to disappoint...once again.