Posted in close to heart

Onam- A then and now perspective

I think every region has that festival which overlooks religion, caste and creed. In the land where I come from, its Onam. Onam is that time of the year when the whole state celebrates the festival irrespective of which religion one belongs to. In just a sentence, Onam is celebrated as the homecoming of the mythical king Mahabali who Malayalees consider as their king.

On any other year, today would be filled with the excitement of the festival, the homecoming of the family, the flower patterns and of course the onakodee- the new dresses or sarees gifted. But this Onam, I am swept away in a totally different direction. For most years, I have been in Kerala during this time of the year. The memories I have of Onam in my formative years and the recent ones are very different. I was looking through some old photographs and realised that about 20 years ago there were no photos taken during onam, but the image in my mind is very fresh. Today there would be atleast thousands of selfies of “mundu and set saree” cladded ladies n gentlemen n another hundreds of albums dedicated to the festival and its festivities. However, I still recall the Onam that was, all those years ago even without an album or photo. By “all those years ago”,I only mean about 2 decades ago. I am not as old as you think I am.

The earliest memory I have of Onam is at my house. At about 8 years of age, I remember making a small floral arrangement called “pookalam” and then helping(read:watching)my grandmother make the quintessential “sadhya” , which is a feast with 11 plus varities of curries,sweet dishes, pickles and more. Another memory from years later is that of waiting in turn at my paternal house for a sadhya, wearing the “onakodi”. Us children would then finish the meal and go about playing every game possible within the limited tine5we had together. In school the memories are that of the onam competitions held every year between the houses. Dance, music and the likes. I can still hum a few onam songs and a song or two from the music store nearby sparks memories. The onam festivities in college werr mostly to do with making sure you were dresses well so that the boys would take a second look at you. It was probably the first time girls wore the traditional attire.
For the past few years now, a lot has changed. Am not sure if the changes were a turn around one year or a result of a gradually evolving society.The traditional way of celebrating the festival have been replaced with modern ways dominated by new rituals.  The high priests of the new rituals are traders of different shades, ranging from the unavoidable supermarket to the redundant jeweller, from the film industry to the television channels. Onam is no more about equality and fraternity, goodness and generosity.  It is about shopping and entertainment.

The original rituals of Onam reinforced relationships among people as well as nature.  Children were sent around to gather flowers from wherever it could be plucked.  In the process they merged into the nature.  They also met and spoke to the owners of the lands from where they collected the flowers. These days the flowers come in a packet that is priced high and the pookalams are mostly visible in the rural areas and outskirts. Flowers bought from the market arent used for making the traditional floral carpet for Maveli but for participating in competitions. Entertainments are brought home by the TV channels; or at best the family makes it to the nearest mall where people ineluctably remain strangers.
The sadhyas have now become takeaways and buffets. The picture of our mothers and grandmothers running around the kitchen to make sure the sadhya is prepared to a t remains a fast fading memory. It is being replaced by plastic containers with sambhar and olan n payasam. Till last year,every shop irrespective of wjat religion the owner belonged to would out up cutouts of maveli on their doors and walls. These days I havent seen tooo many mavelis beinf put up. In earlier times, one would wait eagerly for the onakodi because that was one of the few dresses we would get all througj the year. These days its more of an obligation to buy relatives a new dress for Onam because everyone seems to buy dresses all through the year. What remains is the nostalgia conjured up by the traditional songs and dances telecast on the channels.  The nostalgia gives us a longing for the good old days.  But we know they won’t return.  We don’t want them to return, really.  It is impossible to give up our gadgets and luxury.  It is impossible to be generous to the needy neighbour.  It is impossible to be good.
And me? I envy those who are fortunate to still celebrate the festival with near and dear ones, making the pookkalam, feasting on the homemade sadhya and watching yet another onam pass by. I wonder if my child will ever experience onam in its real sense. Will she, one day be able to look back at the time she spent with her extended family, looking at the onakodi and savoring the sadhya. Will she ever know the happiness that comes from feeding a hungry stomach on onam and making sure atleast one poor man on the street wears a brand new outfit that day. Will she celebrate onam at all?
Happy onam! Enjoy it while it lasts.

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Posted in m@dness

How I regret

Sitting on my porch waiting for the pregnant clouds  to push the rain out, oh such a nice picture. But it is the map(literally) in my hands, the places-to-go on my mind and the stops that I make that give me a purpose to it all. With all that lucky feeling inside, I’ve very nearly no regrets in life so far. But the few that I write below must be the only ones, but I like them. They’re the stops I missed while I fell into a slumber and keep reminding me to sit up, keep my wits ever so sharp and watch out for exciting turns!

I regret outgrowing a few things. Dad used to carry me n walk until I was in 4th standard(I was a thin kid, then). And I loved it that I could smell his hair. In all those frightening moments, I could hug him like I’d hug a never-to-budge-rock that he is. While he watched news on TV with all seriousness, I could sit beside him and note all those features on his hands until he’d affectionately yell – “What’re you doing?”. That I could be endlessly hover around him while he made crispy ghee dosas . Lie next to my mother while she sang to me, wrapped in the free end of her saree to feel safe. The love of one’s parents is the one absolute version of it and I feel full of regret to have outgrown it. To the point that I perhaps don’t need it any more. What a pity, indeed. But then, perhaps it isn’t meant to be drawn out of for ever, nor returned. May be meant to be passed on. I think I am going to spoil my prodigies!

Dad used to wake up early and make breakfast for me and send me off to school. HE would carry my bag all the way till the bus stop. After he’d drop me off he would, he’d come back, put his feet up on the coffee table, slouch on his couch reading the newspaper! And I wanted to be my dad then! Wondering if kings had it any better :p. I dont seem to have time at all! The only time I get to read the newspaper is while I am waiting at some place. At the tailor, the dentist and the likes.

The other last regret is also the much bigger version of the tiny little bit of jealousy I feel towards all those people who have serious hobbies that they’ve nurtured for all their lives. Some of my friends can play instruments, some paint, some do sports and some create endless nice things from nothing. I see such serious indulgence in things of interest to be one additional layer to one’s personality that I so regret not having. Probably the last of the layers when one’s denuded of all others; the one that lets you gracefully and self-assuredly use your time even when everything else is a little dud. I hope reading counts :p! And then, perhaps I should start singing more!

See how nice it is to have regrets and also the remedies to it? :-).

Its raining now!

Posted in Interesting Reads

Its alright to spend on making memories.

This article was up as a good read in one of the sites I follow.  FOr each one of you who thinks that photography is a waste of time and money and all those who think that spending an amount for photography for any occasion is totally unwanted, take a look at this article. 

“My parents have exactly 18 professional images from their wedding. Eighteen. I know them inside and out. I could describe each image to you so well that a sketch artist would be able to recreate them.

How do I know them so well? Because I’ve looked at them hundreds of times. I’ve looked at them hundreds of times because they were on display, in an album. An album that was made by a professional, filled with prints made through a professional lab and bound in a book available only to professionals. From the time I was a little girl I was fascinated by it — seeing my parents so young, my grandparents and aunts and uncles surrounding them. It was a simple leather book, with the images slipped in and preserved behind plastic but it held up surprisingly well over time. Even though I looked at it more times than I could count. Even though this May those images will turn 42 years old.

But what about couples that marry today? What if they decide to forgo an album? What if they decide it’s not worth the cost? How many images do you really think they’ll put into frames? Five? Ten? Maybe that first year married, they’ll have a bunch. But then, kids comes along. Baby pictures replace wedding pictures in those frames. They move, things change. In 40 years, how many pictures do you think their children will know by heart? How many pictures will they have even seen?

Today, a lot of couples think just getting the disc of images is good enough. Here’s the problem with that thinking: it’s not true. Not by a long shot.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that getting the files from your day is great. Today’s couples probably get up to 1,000 images from their wedding, WAY more images than my parents did. After all, what happened to all those other images from my parents’ wedding day? They probably sat, negatives in a box, at their photographer’s studio never again to see the light of day. So I think it’s wonderful that couples get ALL their photos. But what worries me is that even with that option, it won’t mean that today’s couples will necessarily be better off. My fear is that today’s couples will actually end up with LESS than what my parent’s got in 1971.

Think about it, will the computers of 2055 even have DVD drives? USB ports? Will they even have hard drives at all? If the past is any indication, the answer is no. You know what the big technological advancement was when my parents got married? Eight-track players. What if their images were stored on the equivalent of that? How in the world would I see those images today?

But you know what never becomes obsolete? What never goes out of style? Photographs. And not just any photographs. Not photos printed at a drugstore. Professional photographs, printed by a professional lab. Those are the photos you find in an attic. It could be a 100-year-old photo, but it still looks good. Because back then, the paper photographs were printed on was high quality and developing them was an art form. There were no machines that spit out pictures onto cheap paper with inexpensive ink. I actually have to stop myself from intervening when I see people at those automated machines in a drugstore. Whatever they’re charging, it’s too much. Because those prints aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. They will fade. They will curl. They will not stand the test of time. Not even close.

Your memories are worth more than that. And your wedding images? They are worth TONS more than that. These aren’t snapshots from a vacation. They aren’t pictures from your iPhone. You cared enough about these moments to hire a professional to photograph them. Follow that through by having a professional print them. Have that professional print the pictures you put into frames and have them design you a high-quality wedding album that you will cherish for decades.

If you purchase an album through your photographer, you can see a sample in person. You can touch and feel it and make sure it is worth every penny.

I know that albums are expensive. That’s for good reason. They are custom-designed books, usually hand-stitched and hand assembled and made just for you.

But of all the things you spend money on for your wedding, your wedding photographs are the ONLY thing that will increase in value over time. As the years pass, you’ll be more and more glad that you have them. Especially, if you can experience looking through them by flipping through a gorgeous custom-designed album instead of sitting in front of your computer and clicking “next” with your mouse.

So, figure out a way to make it happen. Figure out a way to afford that album. Forgo a centerpiece. Cut back on your guest list. Opt out of the vintage car you’ll drive in for all of 20 minutes.

Don’t just do it for you. Do it for your children. Do it for your grandchildren. Because when they root around in your attic in 2075, they will have no idea what do with a USB key anymore than they would with a laser disc player.”

I know I’ll spend on photos on every notable occasion in my life. I have always done that and I will continue to do so. WOuld you keep memories alive for your generations to come?

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

Of forgotten memories

“Many things that seemed to be the crux of our existence at one point in time slowly fade away into memories and then into archives of insignificance in the larger chapters of our lives. We can’t even mourn or be happy about them because we don’t remember them in the first place.”- Manuscrypts

It’s strange, what memory keeps and ruefully discards.For example, I don’t remember the time the top of my head didn’t even reach the desk, or the time when I was on my toes craning to reach the top end of the fridge where the chocolates were kept and falling short. And a lot of childhood memories that I do have, are derived from snapshots taken back then. Moments frozen beautifully in an innocent time, when if I fell down I could cry and scream, without looking around to see if anyone noticed. When chocolate could sinfully drip down my chin and people would say “How cute!” instead of “What a slob!” When “Oh god please tell me” was the way to go and the solution for some of the biggest problems we faced!

My episodic memory, is primarily made up of photographs, or certain startling moments, be it happy or sad, of certain words spoken, looks and tones. However, entire years have been blocked out of memory, almost as if they never happened. I remember a birthday party my mother hosted for me when I was 5 because I see photographs of it now and then. I remember going cycling with a few friends when I was in 6th Standard and had a ladybird as MY VEHICLE because I still have its basket in my store room. I remember putting the fishes of my my brother’s aquarium into the water tank because my family still makes fun of me.

I have memories of my childhood, bits and pieces and sometimes it disturbs me. Aren’t we supposed to remember every minute detail of our lives or are we just supposed to forget so that we get space in our minds to create new memories? I remember some things but seem to have forgotten most of it. Coming back to where I started, I remember having a fascination towards barbie dolls when I was a young girl and hated sharing it with anybody except Gou(who used to be my playmate when I was about 10 yrs old). It was the centre of my universe once upon a time and just the other day when I gave it all away to my niece, I didnt feel anything at all! It was only when I thought why I had kept it for so long that I realised that it used to be the essence of my life once upon a time. Trivial I know, but I realised right then that there were so many other things that were important to me and tht time erased all memories of.

I wrote this today because I met a person on the road the other day. I was sure I knew the person from somewhere but just couldnt remember the name! This person walked up to me and called out my name and hugged me as I stood there, flabbergasted. This person went on to ask how I was doing and gave me updates about life and talk about the stuff we used to do. We talked for a full 15 minutes in a very animated fashion. This person finally said bye after saying how weird it was that we were best friends in school for about 5 years n still never kept in touch after school! It took me about ten minutes after this person went, to actually recollect this person’s name! I felt disgusted by all of it. Sad actually. At the tricks time plays on all of us.

As I write this I remember things, places, people and experiences that I used to cherish once upon a time. All these that used to be the crux of my existence at one point in time in my life which have become nothing but  shards of a forgotten past. None of it makes any impact on my life now and I  dont think it will be the centre of my universe ever again.  Slowly I began to accept  that a moment can mean a thousand different things. Indelible impressions can be left on people and places. And I suddenly understood the innate depth of a memory. I know I can’t stop time. I can’t capture light. But I know I would love to delve deeper into my treasure chest of memories. In search of answers, however profound or silly. Yes, I am staring at an abyss. Now will the abyss please stare back at me?Maybe someday that which we lost to time, will come back to us and remind us of a forgotten past and gift us a smile or a tear maybe.

Footfalls echo in the memory

Down the passage which we did not take

Towards the door we never opened
~T.S. Eliot

Posted in m@dness

Life is in those moments….

1. A sure sign that you’ve been taking too many half days or days off from work recently…

Me: (Walking up to my boss at 1pm to inform him that I’d be leaving an hour early at 4:30 pm)I say Ummmm…

Boss: (loudly and waving) Okay, BYE!!!!

 

 

2. Irrepressible daddy dearest(Das)….

Me: Why did you buy kids powder the last time?

Das: What? Kids powder?

Me: The Johnsons Baby Powder……for kids.

Das: (Grumpily) Oh they all look the same and I can’t be expected to read the fine print.

Me: Ok, except that it says ‘FOR KIDS’ in large Blue letters on the front.

Das: Are you making fun of me?

Me: Naaaaaa

 

 

3. Chatting on Whats App with a friend who hails from Tamil Nadu but born into a mallu family (mild-mannered Madrasi friend).No D, I am not going to harass you by mentioning your name…

Me: Ok now read my blog, comment and start blogging yourself. I have to go.

Madarasi: Aiyi captain!!

Me: Was that the madrasi version of aye aye? Then it should have been aiyyo or aiiyyaa. Lol.

Madarasi: Oh shut up and just go!! (Not so mild-mannered, eh?)

A long time ago….but it really make for a moment then…thats why I still remember!

 

 

4. On the phone – in the middle of a fight with A at 12 am issuing a long string of accusations…

Me: And you don’t even CARE that I am upset!!! (Bursts into tears, for effect).

A: (sleepy, tired, resigned and a little horrified at the waterworks) I am upset that you’re sorry.

Me: Huh?

 

 

5. My niece, Nivedita(Kalyani) is 6 years old and talks like she is 28! She has the most wittiest of one liners and sometimes it really can make you go whoa!?! SO Kalyanism is dedicated to her and her extremely famous dialogues.

I call her kallu and she calls me MM( No I am not telling you what it stands for)

While I was at my aunt’s house in a cozy n cool part of God’s Own Country last month.

Scene : Kalyani doing my hair.

K : I will comb slowly ok ? Please lemme comb … ok ?

Me: Wokie Kallu…!

K : Thank you!! I won’t pull ur hair too much ok ?? Otherwise ur brain will start paining…!!

A few seconds later…

K: MM, Do you have brains?

To this day, I am trying to figure out if she really meant that question or if it was one of her really innocent thoughts?!

 

6. My friend, another M n me decide to leave work half an hour early so that we can go to a mall and shop. We get out after making a huge hue and cry and get stuck in a jam that stretched for nearly 2 km for over an hour and a half. So when the rest of our office folks reached their homes, we were stuck in traffic!

 

7. The lil girl who keeps staring at me in awe everytime I meet her. Its like she thinks I am very beautiful. What does that make me?! Miss Universe! Coz at that exact time when she is staring at me, I am the centre of her universe!

 

8. Gij and I in Bangalore on one of our impulses where we walked about 6 kilometres and ate samosas and chaats like there was no tomorrrow.

 

9. Bike ride on a moonlit night.

 

10. Watching Das eat pizza like a 4 year old!

 

11. Catching that favourite movie just when you thought you had to hit the sack coz there was nothing to watch on tv.

 

12. Laughing till tears come out.( Oh this happens mostly on fridays when the other M and I are having our weekly tete-a-tete!!

 

13. Watching the rain and reading a book or watching the rain and just thinking.

 

I really think that its in moments such as these and a few more that I have lived. Lived to the fullest. It is in these momemts that I have seen life come alive. These are moments that have taken my breath away and can still make me smile when I think of them. Some of them that I have shared these moments with have gone a long way leaving me behind but I miss them . I do.

 

But life is in these moments. Was atleast….

Posted in m@dness

Off I go

Like I said yesterday, or tried to say, I need a break. I convinced myself that I deserve a break. SO I am taking one. 3 days of no access to internet and very very very limited access to phone calls(not that i have limited access but i am going to make it less accessible). No, its not a cheap publicity stunt 😉

Traffic Jams.. Software engineers….IT Parks…Metro….Mallus….Malls….Flyovers….Dogs….and beyond all this there is a strange calmness that this city offers…and I realise that my heart is racing as though I am going back to my long lost love.

So…off to bangalore(it still is bangalore for me and not n never will be bengaluru) to bug the Big M and D. Lets see how much of peace they can bring. Oh and am tagging dad along too just so that we dont get too hyper or carried away!  I have always, always looked forward to going to Bangalore because I left there with a longing to return  but this time I am not looking forward to shopping or eating or anything of that sort.. Just peace and i know that, that city can offer lots of it.

So its ciao from me till next Monday. Enjoy your weekend……and am singing…”Leaving on a jet plane” to no one in particular…

P.S- Miss me…okay?