Posted in Interesting Reads

The “Ittotte” Story

First things First. “Ittotte” in Malayalam(My mother tongue) means shall i put it here. Trust me, this one is a nice read for anyone who is looking for opportunities.

“As we waited at the signal for the lights to turn green, a lottery ticket seller approached the car and pushed a bunch of tickets in front of me. I tried to shoo him away but he would not go. Muttering under my breath, I waited for the light to turn green and so that I could just speed away. I hate people, esp youngsters begging and selling things on the street!

That was when I heard the ‘Ittotte?’ story for the first time.

Once upon a time, on a tree by the roadside, there lived a wizened old madman. He would threaten passers-by, with a heavy sack in his hand, asking, “Ittottee?” which in Malayalam means, “Shall I drop this on you?”

The passers-by would all hasten away, fearing that he would indeed be mad enough to actually drop the heavy sack on them.

Until one day, a boy took on the old man and agreed that the sack could be dropped down on him.

The old man in surprise asked the boy once again, if he was sure that he wanted the sack to be dropped.

The boy nodded in affirmation.

“Are you very sure?” The old man asked repeatedly “It will hurt you”.

“Very sure, very sure. Drop the sack down”, the boy said categorically.

The old man dropped the heavy sack. Very carefully though, ensuring that the sack did not really fall on the boy and hurt him.

The boy was a bit surprised that the ‘madman’ had not thrown the sack down on him, but let it down so gingerly.

“Can I open it?” he asked the old man.

“It’s yours” the old man answered and smiled wryly.

The boy opened the sack and found it was filled with gold and precious stones.

Not sure of the wrinkled old man’s intentions, the boy looked up quizzically.

“Take it take it” the old man said “I’m glad that I found at least one person who has the good sense to receive what I have for him, before I die.”

This is what the story taught me, as I complained about the nuisance of the vendor – that we are only what we see, and that we get only what we agree to receive. Where everybody else ‘saw’ a threat in the unexpected sound of “Ittotte?” from above, the boy saw an opportunity

Many of us similarly, choose to flee from our good fortune, because success too often appears scary.

We are all hearing the question “Ittotte?” loudly and clearly in many different ways, everyday in our lives from equally unfamiliar and odd circumstances or moments.

What does it take to learn to say yes and not run away from our ‘Ittottee?’ ?

Opportunity does not come before us with a placard reading ‘your opportunity’ written out in big fat bold letters. It most often seems quite threatening like the ‘Ittotte?’ man in this story.

Thinking about it today, I wish I knew from which little book was this little thought revealed? Or was I destined to hear it, because I often run away from the opportunities life presents?

I wish I knew…”

Posted in m@dness

The afternoons that’ll never be

And so it was a looooooooooooooooooooooong weekend but had sooooooooooo much to do:) I’ll writ about it soon. Had to write this one today. Last evening while das and I were driving around town, having our usual chats, the radio made me listen to an old Malayalam song from the early 90’s.  It is not that I haven’t heard this song before. I’ve even hummed it quite a number of times. But today the song brought along with it a memory. Of a little girl and her mother, ears fixed on to the speakers of a cassette player. Pen and paper in hand. Amma. I dont have too many memories of her but yes this is one I’d never forget. She loved this song. It used to be in that one cassette which had a number of her favourite songs.
It used to be our afternoon pastime. Listening to old and much loved songs to take down the lyrics. She had this notepad that she used to write down lyrics on. She would play, pause, write, rewind, play and repeat. I used to learn them then, diligently as though I’d had an examination the next day! It was my way of impressing my mother. I’d always get the tune the very first time but could never get the lyrics at one go. Amma would correct my awful rendering in her smooth, beautiful voice. And I listened to her, awestruck as always.She used to sing beautifully. It is probably the only good thing I inherited from her. Those afternoons, when my brother was out or reading and my grandmother was taking her noon nap, was our time.
I used to sing at the drop of a hat, then. Now, I cant sing even when am forced to. I still remember her asking me to learn one song by myself and I did it real soon. I did it just like her. Play, pause, write, rewind, play….. It was the last one. To this day I cannot get myself to write down lyrics of songs. It hurts too much.
I miss many things in life. In fact too many things that it is probably unhealthy. Today however, this ranks supreme. The ‘our’ time. I think somewhere down the line, there are so many moments that I cherish, with so many different people. Which are simply not there anymore. And that makes it probably even more beautiful.
Posted in m@dness


“That which we manifest is before us” 

I read some where, and realized that it all comes down to not just reality in itself but how we perceive that reality – that at the end of it all, we create our own reality. We only find what we look for.

I remember this malayalam flick called “Life is Beautiful”, a Mohanlal starrer. Well he plays this character of a teacher. There is this particular scene where he asks the students to stand on top of the bench and see things. It was his way of teaching the kids to look at things from different angles, in short: to percieve things in a different way. That moved me a lot the first time I saw it and even yesterday, 10 years after I saw, it still managed to touch me.

When we set out every morning looking for sadness, we will find it in everything beautiful on our way. If we look for happiness, all the colors would look brighter and all the flowers happier, none lonely. Those who look for God find him, and those who wouldn’t want to, would come up with a million reasons to defy His existence, which are meaningless to the believers. Those who love, will be loved – one way or another, they will be. But, again, its a matter of perspective, what we see depends mainly on what we look for. And you will walk right past something incredibly beautiful if you are not looking for it. It is as if you are blind even while keeping your eyes wide open.

Almost everything we see is a perception and not the truth. A dear friend said to me that if we are always arriving and departing, it is also true that we are eternally anchored. One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.

Pain or perspective, that’s the choice.You choose pain – you choose to fight it, deny it, bury it – then yes, the choice is always hard. But you choose perspective – embrace your history, give it credit for the better person it can make you, scars and all – the choice gets easier every time.

In the end… Life is all about perspectives


Posted in m@dness

The Name Game

I know I have written about naming a baby before. Really tis  naming phenomena fascinates me!!

My cousin just got pregnant and my first question was ‘Have you thought of names for the baby?’

Nomenclature of any sort is a tricky business.And it’s not just Malayalis who use inexplicable permutations and combinations to name their kids.  Many a Malayali parent has blighted the future of their children by bestowing upon them names such as Trophy, Medal and Shield, three sisters I knew. I kid you not but I also happen to know a couple called Romeo and Juliet.  They say that they found each other completely by chance. After all, they say, how could any Romeo not want his Juliet?

The Syrian Christian naming system is even more confusing. We have small kids named ‘appachen’ which in Malayalam translates to grandfather. Or there are individuals who have done all the growing up they possibly can called ‘Baby.’

I once met a girl named Kunjumol which means ‘small girl’ in Malayalam. Having seen the verve with which she demolished three masala dosas, I was pretty sure that no part of that was true.

And to think this extends beyond the human kingdom. Some years ago I went to a house and heard the owner calling for their Labrador. ‘Billy, where are you?’ he hollered. Seeing no sign of he tried something else. ’Billy Joel ,’ he screamed.  The dog gave a musical bark to live up to its namesake and came tottering from beneath the sofa. ‘He’s very possessive about his name,’ I was told jocularly.

And then that mildly nauseating technique of combining the parents’ names for the children. So for a Shaji and Sheela, the son becomes Shashi. Or for a Gigi and Poulose the daughter gets stuck with Pougi. Ok i was kidding..But I have heard of milkymol 🙂

Recently, I discovered that when it comes to the Syrian Christian system of naming, there is a method to the madness. If the first born is male, he’s given his father’s father’s name. If it’s female, then she is the lucky recipient of her father’s mother’s name. If the second born is male then he’s given the name of his mother’s father and if female, then the mother’s mother’s.

Confused? Go figure.

Posted in m@dness

Land of Lungis

This post is an entry at Blogjunta Dreams Contest to be judged by Jyoti Arora, author of Dream’s Sake

So I was forced to think about writing about Lungi coz last night I was watchin my cousin and wondering why there aren’t enough men in lungis these days.Recently, my friend sent the link to a YouTube video called ‘Land of Lungi’ lightly spoofing Kerala culture. I watched it three times before realising a sad fact: the lungi, despite featuring in the title of the song, might be an endangered item in Kerala.

Many years ago, there used to be a Kitex lungi advertisement featuring the Malayalam actor Indrans. It went something like this: A girl is being abused by a group of men. Indrans arrives at the scene and instead of mashing the villains into a pulp, he removes his lungi (in case you were wondering, yes, he was wearing boxers) and traps the men within its roomy interior. The ad is supposed to signify that Kitex lungi is not just about style but about substance too. My point is this: when was the last time you saw a lungi advertisement on television?

Sadly, it’s not just the lungi but its more subdued counterpart, the mundu, that’s facing extinction although at a much slower pace. Take Mollywood, that ever-reliable barometer of Malayali style. Unless the role particularly demands it (read if the hero is a politician, a Gandhian, or a villager), actors seem to prefer to stick to trousers. Grrr and its having an    impact on my dad too!! He stopped wearing them at home even.Bermudas is the new lungi he says n I ask, doesn’t the restricted air supply irritate him n he says buzz off!

In the three generations of men in mylife, I’ve personally witnessed the decline of the lungi in popularity. My very elderly uncle(85  years) refuses to wear anything but it in the house and a mundu  when he steps out, my dad only wears it during funtions and my brother has never worn one in his life. I asked him why and he gave me two reasons: He thinks that wearing a lungi is akin to sounding fashion’s death knell and he’s afraid it’ll fall off.

I beg to differ. What could be more fashionably elegant than the flowing silhouette of the lungi? Not to mention its power to mutate. A lungi is to Malayali apparel what steamed rice or ‘puttu’ is to Malayali food: it goes with everything, be it a transparent baniyan, a simple cotton shirt, a psychedelic silk one or a multi-coloured jubba.  Also, what other item of clothing can ensure proper air supply and let you show off your tanned Malayali legs without reducing the machismo quotient by even a sliver.

But my favourite benefit of the lungi is that it allows you to do The Flick. If you don’t know what The Flick is, watch any South Indian movie scene where the hero is wearing a lungi. It usually occurs right before an action sequence and will most probably be in slow motion (especially if it’s a Mohanlal starrer). The hero bends down slightly, does a mini hop-skip flicking the end of a lungi into an outstretched palm before he ties it round his hips and proceeds to demolish the villains; with every lungi-addict in the audience silently, or sometimes not so silently, cheering him on.

It saddens me that such a versatile piece of clothing might be reduced to a collector’s item in the near future. For all of you out there who are wary of sporting a lungi, I beg you to reconsider. Here’s to the hope that it will weather all storms and soldier on to the next generation and the one after that coz personally speaking if my knight in shining armour ever comes, I’d want him to be wearing a mundu/lungi!!!!

For all those who are still wondering what a lungi/mundu is and how you tie one, here goes….

P.S- I dream of a Kerala with men in Lungi and mundu, wearing it like its new style n makin it a must have in a men’s wardrobe!

Posted in close to heart, m@dness

What’s in a name?

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet.”

When I hear this I often wonder if Shakespeare actually knew what he was talking about…. If you are wondering what am I exactly ranting about then you have to know this story, my story.

When I was born, my mother wanted my name to be unique. She also had other specifications regarding my name. My brother was named Manu, so she wanted my name to be similar to his. She wanted my name to have only 2 letters when written in Malayalam. They tried and tested multiple names and spellings on me. Tried calling me to see if I responded,not that I had a say in all this anyway but till this point in time I am ok with everything…. Now I wonder why exactly she gave this name to me…. I mean did I do something when I was in the cradle prompting her to give me this name????At some bizzare moment, probably I was hungry or irritated or whatever, when my mother called out the name “Madri”, Iwould have responded with an “huh”. So that’s how I was named.

Did it occur to her what her repercussions are. But before that my first question goes to parents all over. How do they decide on the name of their child??? I mean if the child smiled in the cradle, they will name him Santosh. Or if the child was born in the morning then he is Suraj? I am perplexed. Gods name are given to children. But what is the intention?? Is it that the names will help the child turn as virtuous as Gods???? But who am I to question laws of society and nature…. So coming back to my name…. as I said before…. I am not cribbing about this…. I was the only MADRI in my school, college and my workplace. Having a unique name has its perks in the world where there are hajar Priyas, arjuns, Sudhas. I mean if you find say a book with Madri written on it, u would know immediately it is mine. There won’t be a need to research and know which MADRI this book belongs to, coz it only me in the game. But this unique name (I refrain from calling it unusual) also had a flip side as well….

Now whenever I go and introduce myself, the people are amused. This is evident by the broad smile on their face when they hear my name. Some even go to the extent of saying “oh, like the capital of spain?”. now I am stumped. How am I supposed to react to this. “Yes Madrid minus the d” or just give that silly grin and let him/her decide. People have even asked me y my parents didn’t name me madhuri or madhavi, why MADRI?? LIke I had a choice of choosing my name!! Going to college was particularly dreadful for me coz I always thought I would be ragged courtesy my ‘UNIQUE’ name…. How many seniors would get a chance like this. I mean my name actually gives them ragging material on the platter….

But that’s not all…. I went to Barista the other day…. Now at this coffee joint I have to order, then tell my name, pay of course and finally wait for my turn till the guy calls off my name from the list…. So I go to the guy and say ill have a choco frappe and a grilled sandwich…. So he takes the order and asks my name…. I say, “Madri” he says, “excuse me madam…. Could u repeat that…. I heard the name as MADri….” I said, “yes, that’s correct… that’s my name….” you should ve seen the grin on his face when I confirmed my name…. worse comes next…. When my order was done he goes, “MAAAAAAADriiiiiiiiiiiiiiii”…. Now I would like to believe that was because he had to get through to me despite the din around…. There are many such instances…. All through these years I have seen people grin, smile, laugh when I tell my name…. the positive way of looking at it is that I have made people laugh and then I get content with it…. if you meet me and u would come to know that the MADri aspect of my character is not exactly just limited only to my name 🙂

Probably my name is unique, undoubtedly manipulated several times and hard to get the first time. I may even sound mad or act mad at times. People often ask me, if you don’t like your name why u don’t change it…. But then comes my immediate reply, “What’s in a name? That which we call Madri by any other word would mean the same sweet person” wont it????

For those of you who are wondering what exactly my name means, here goes.

In the Mahabharata epic, Madri (Sanskrit: माद्री Mādrī) was a princess of the Madra kingdom and the second wife of Pandu.

On his way to Hastinapur, King Pandu encountered the army of Shalya, King of Madra. Very soon, Pandu and Shalya became friends and Shalya gave his only sister, Madri to Pandu, as a gift of their friendship. Looking at her beauty, Pandu accepted the lady willingly and took her to Hastinapur.She, alongside Kunti, faithfully accompanied Pandu in his hermetical retreat following his abdication as the king of Hastinapura. One day while hunting in the forest, Pandu accidentally shot an arrow killing a hermit. He cursed Pandu saying that he would die alongside the person he lay with. Both Kunti and Madri were directly affected by the curse on Pandu because they were denied the opportunity to lay with Pandu and thus Pandu’s children. However, a boon was given to Kunti which enabled her to call upon any God to bear her a child. She had used this boon once before with the Sun God and thus gave birth to Karna, a child which no one was aware of. After Pandu learns of this boon he begs her to call upon Gods to bear her with children. She call upon Dharma, Vayu, and Indira and she bears YudishtiraBhima, and Arjuna respectively. Pandu asks Kunti to use this boon for Madri, who then bore twins from the twin Gods Ashvins named Nakula and Sahadeva.

One fateful day, Pandu desired Madri and the memory of the curse briefly eluded him. Death struck Pandu immediately. Madri, filled with remorse, self immolated on Pandu’s funeral pyre.