The person you have called…..

Getting fired by the boss in front of the office that contains a bunch of snickering jobless aunties is awkward. Watching a sex scene on television with your parents is awkward. Seeing an old photograph of yourself when you thought you looked ravishing and now, with the recalibrated perspective of time, you realize you look like a before and after version of some twisted “Put on 15 kg in limited time” medicine is awkward. All three have happened to me but you know what I find more awkward these days? Phone conversations. My friends wouldnt have agreed if they hadnt witnessed it. But yes, I cannot take calls and I hate taking them.

In my opinion, chatting on the phone is an inherent talent much like acrobatics or pole vaulting. To some it comes naturally. My dad conducts hour-long  phone conversations with people every day, discussing his office politics, rehashing gossip, dissecting new ones,complaining to relatives and sometimes random people about how am not serious about marriage etc. Listening to this particular friend of mine on the phone with her man and her friends is like watching the flow of a river: gushing in smooth, powerful waves. Listening to mine, on the other hand, is like watching a  Sylvester Stallone film: bleak silences punctured by spurts of action.  ‘Chatting for fun’ on the phone is a concept beyond my limited powers of comprehension, now. I usually adhere to a strict ‘state your purpose and hang up’ policy. EEEEEEkkkssssss, I am beginning to think that I am turning into some sociophobic bimbo!

My problem these days is compounded by two factors:

1)My brain is not hardwired with a voice recognition software. Simply put, it means that when I get calls from unknown numbers I am pathetic at recognising the voice on the other end of the line. It could be my boss or my best friend of twenty years. Confessing ignorance might be at best an insult and at worst a fatal mistake. Hence, how do you decide the degree of familiarity your reply should contain? ‘How positively delightful to hear from you after so long’ might be a tad over enthusiastic when the caller is a friend you speak to every single day!

2)I get bored after sometime. The person on the other end might be speaking about a galore of things that interest him or her but i get bored! I cant help it if I have limited stuff that amuses me or entertains me, can I?! So I have started doing this Hi, hello, how are you and then talking for two minutes and hanging up on some pretext. 

I try to avoid phone conversations as far as possible. Besides the ‘strictly business’ phone calls, the only ones I make are birthday calls. After ‘Happy Birthday’ and ‘What plans for the day?’ I hit a rock wall that I make half-hearted attempts to climb with some tepid hemming and hawing, until the birthday boy or girl puts us both out of our misery with the pretext of a call waiting. Or a call  to ask someone something that I cannot type on a message coz it would be way too long. 

Ending a phone conversation is something else that befuddles me. Phone etiquette dictates that the person who makes the call should be the one to end it. When is the right time to do it? How do you do it without invoking the charge of abruptness? How to know when you’re drained of conversation if you didn’t have any in the first place? So, I have started telling people that  I have a call coming in (after punching some key on the phone so that it makes that kee kee noise) and so they would ask me to take that call. Nasty me ryt!?

 More recently I’ve started practicing my ‘call centre’ voice, mostly inspired by a scene from a mallu movie I saw a while ago. A man receives a call from an unwelcome party and replies in a stiff, mechanical voice, ‘The person you’re trying to reach is currently on another call. Please try again later.’

P.S- Dont stop calling me though :)

Carpe Diem

Communication. It’s the first thing we really learn in life. Funny thing is, once we grow up, learn our words and really start talking, the harder it becomes to know what to say. Or how to ask for what we really need.

I have been having a thought in my head for quite awhile now. It is whether or not to confront  a person or just let time speak. And then somewhere I realised that maybe we need to take life in our own hands and risk it. Then, it would probably pay off. A couple of hundred years ago, Benjamin Franklin shared with the world the secret of his success. Never leave that till tomorrow, he said, which you can do today. This is the man who discovered electricity. You think more people would listen to what he had to say. I don’t know why we put things off, but if I had to guess, I’d have to say it has a lot to do with fear. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, sometimes the fear is just of making a decision, because what if you’re wrong? What if you’re making a mistake you can’t undo?

The early bird catches the worm. A stitch in time saves nine. He who hesitates is lost. We can’t pretend we hadn’t been told. We’ve all heard the proverbs, heard the philosophers, heard our grandparents warning us about wasted time, heard the damn poets urging us to seize the day. Still sometimes we have to see for ourselves. We have to make our own mistakes. We have to learn our own lessons. We have to sweep today’s possibility under tomorrow’s rug until we can’t anymore. Until we finally understand for ourselves what Benjamin Franklin really meant. That knowing is better than wondering, that waking is better than sleeping, and even the biggest failure, even the worst, beat the hell out of never trying.

Maybe someday soon I too shall seize the day and go out and find answers to life. I may not do it today and I may not do it tomorrow, but I shall someday, ask.

It’s not always easy to speak your mind. Sometimes you need to be forced to do it. Sometimes it’s better to just keep things to yourself though. Play dumb. Even when your whole body is aching to come clean. So you shut your mouth. Keep the secret. And find other ways to make yourself happy.:)

One of those days….

There are days when all you want to do is sit in a sunny house and water the plants and watch them grow. Ponder sitting on a mat of sunshine streaks ,watching the dog trying to catch his tail , then come to you wagging and rest his face on your lap – looking at you with soft moist eyes.( I miss you mickey)

Days when all you want to do is look at the garden and the trees swinging, and watch the wind go by caressing the wind chimes and they in turn chiming, softly ringing – acknowledging the favor.

Days when a cup of hot black tea topped with the lime from your little garden is enough to satisfy your soul.

Days that you spend doing nothing and come back to the world soaked in bliss.

Days when all you need is sunshine and a cup of hot chai; when all you want to do is potter around the house dusting the pillows and spreading that thick blue cotton bed sheet to the strains of  Yesudas immersing you with his velvety‘Tere mere sapne ab ek rang hein…

Days when you take yourself gently by the hand and calm your restless mind and tell all is meant to be and allow yourself to be content.

Days when you chuck the keyboard and take your favorite pen and that hardbound book with the picture of the seas and the maps and yellow pages and write a letter to your unborn that one day he will read and remember his then young crazy mother and think – “Oh she used do things other that feed me gooey stuff”

Days when you think of Mary Poppins and Jane Austin …Days when you read all those Zen books immersing yourself in the wisdom of the ages.

Days when just having the dog flop down by your feet, warming your toes and the sunshine soaking your bones is enough. Nothing more .Nothing less.

Being Chivalrous

I am mighty pissed, not because I worked till past midnight tonight,reaaaally late last evening but because the world today has forgotten what chivalry is all about. Okay for those who have forgotten really let’s take a pause here and find out what it means. Chivalry  is having the qualities of gallantry and honor attributed to an ideal knight.

I for one believe in equality of the sexes, I oppose separate queues for women at a ticket reservation counter, I am against gender bias of any form except probably in a  local train (and everyone knows why).

I am pissed because it was late and this particular colleague of mine didn’t offer to drop me home. I stormed out of office thinking, “what an insensitive being, how un-chivalrous of him”. After all the cussing (in my head of course), I began to think. Most women have some distorted meaning of the word chivalry, for them it’s this preferential treatment that they have been subjected too.

I don’t need men opening doors or pulling up chairs for me, neither do I want them to drop me home after working till late, but just like every other woman in India I am a hypocrite and I admit I love it when they do all that. I am a big sucker for this preferential treatment that I have been subjected to – tax benefits, shorter queues, lesser crowds, opening doors, holding my chair and millions of other small benefits that I have taken for granted, so much so that I think it’s my birth right.It has been ingrained so deeply into us that, any accidents on the road we seek to attribute it to the women-are-bad-drivers phenomenon. It allows any woman to walk away scot-free, after having run over any animal / person / thing, without bearing damages (that’s why I am so kicked about driving).

The world has witnessed many waves of feminism that has not just empowered women but has spoilt them as well. How am I ever going to grow up if the men folk flatter me by feeling me up in a public train or if a financial institution honors me with a free credit card? When can I tell myself the world is truly unbiased towards both sexes, for wherever I go there are special fast track queues for women or the woman’s double-discount-dhamaka plasters on every store?

Holding doors or bags etc. are such archaic definitions of chivalry. For me chivalry is in the heart. It’s in the manner of speech. You just know the man is chivalrous when he treats you with respect, he never addresses you condescendingly and his remarks are not derogatory.

When I turn around at my doorway after a long dinner to catch that final smile and wave before he drives off, I know he is truly chivalrous.

Sometimes I think I will make an effort to be this spoilt brat, its totally worth it.hihihihi

Truth is stranger than fiction!

I promised a lot of people that I’d share with them the basis of my short story, The Call. So here goes…

I did my graduation in a popular Tamil Nadu College and I was a regular in the bus going to Kerala every weekend. Due to the rush, sometimes I used to get the last bus which was at 11:00 pm and my friends would be there to see me off to ensure that I was safe! Yeah how sweet!

One night as I was waiting for my bus to arrive, I noticed a girl who was my senior standing across the road. She was dressed very sexy like she was going partying. I knew her from college and was just about to go meet her when my friend stopped me and told me not to go and to wait and watch. What followed was an absolute stunner!

A car stopped in front of her and they spoke something and the car left. Another stopped in a few minutes and left. 5-6 cars followed and then finally one car did and they spoke for awhile longer and she got in and left the place. It was after awhile that I realised what was going on! She was a professional escort ( Okie i like to call it that coz i hate the other words they use to describe such women). I did meet her in college and she was like any normal girl there. Studying, hanging out with friends, library, cafeteria etc. I couldn’t help wonder what made her do this!? I decided to speak to her just to put an end to my curiosity.

I went upto her one day and this was the conversation we had that evening.

Me: I saw you one night at The Bus Stand. I think both you and I know why you were there that night.

She: (An awkward glance at me) So?

Me: I am curious and I need to know why you chose such a path?

She: Why would I tell you? So that you can tell your friends about me n laugh over it??

Me: No because I need to know why that’s all? 

She: (laughing loudly) that is one helluva reason for me to tell u! Girl,don’t you have anything else to do than interfere in someone else’s life??

Me: No.

She: Buzz off.

And i did buzz off that night. But a few months later I saw her again at The Bus Stand and this time she came to me and started talking.  While we waited for my bus, she kept my friends n me company and told us her story over a cup of coffee.

She was from a middle class family. Her dad was not the richie rich type. She came to study in our college and realised that in order to belong to the hep group, she had to have some amount of money. At first she tried coaxing her dad to send her some every month and he relented. Probably he would have thought that this girl would stop asking a few months later. As soon as he stopped sending her cash, she began forcing her dad again and this time her dad said a strict no. But by then she was becoming a part of the Hep Gang and she was willing to do anything to be a part of it. When the money was getting over, she panicked. She sold her books first, then her mobile and slowly slowly the little jewelry her parents had given her.

She was very well loved by all in the group. She was willing to help everybody, always loaded with cash and very charming. Slowly she realised she didnt have anything more to sell. So one night as she was waiting at the Bus Stand to go home, a car stopped in front of her. A guy stepped out and asked her how much she wanted? At first she didn’t understand what was hapenning. Then he said he had the place,food and protection. How much she wanted for a night? She laughed and took it as a joke wondering if god was playing some game with her. She replied in a joking manner, 30,000. He said yes.

She was surprised and asked him again if he was willing to pay 30,000 for a night only?! He said yes and asked her to get into the car. She did.

From then on it was easy money. She says,” Nothing changes, I dont love anyone I have sex with and neither do they fall in love with me. Some dont even see my face! These days virginity is just a word! Tomorrow if my husband doubts my virginity, I can always tell him I fell off the cycle!’

That was her story.  She did pass out of college and she did get married a few years later to a nice looking man from her town. As far as I know they are happy.The hep group she was a part of and gave everything to be  a part of split up long before college ended. All for nothing, I say!

Sometimes when I see these professional escorts on the street I cant help wonder if she still does it for money and what if her husband was to be one of her clients? Could that happen? I don’t know….

Isn’t truth stranger than fiction?!

 

A life of Contradictions

Everyone I know in my life will vouch for the contradictory traits present in me; be it family, friends or colleagues. This aspect of my life is very starkly observed or rather is something that involuntarily just comes across people I meet. So what contradictions are these? Starting from the external, superficial stuff and to name a few; I love sports and athletic activities but I HATE walking, jogging, strolling. I always favor gals (bordering on feminism) but share a better rapport with the guys in my group. I would love to go out and freak out with friends but my idea of an ideal weekend is sleep lotssss, watch TV and laze around at my place. I love to cook but I often get bored to cook. I am very conservative yet I am most comfy in jeans, don’t mind late night outs with my friends, don’t mind guys staying over at my place (something which contradicts a traditional mindset). I often get troubled about this. I wonder which one is the real me? Introspecting all the time to find the answer but never once did I stumble upon it!

One day I spoke to one of my friends about her work and she told me that her pseudo name is Linda Fletcher (she works for an international BPO). I was outraged. If someone calls me madhuri instead of my correct name I expect the other person to apologize and here is my friend; who is being paid for hiding her identity. Who is attending classes to lose the Indian accent and put on a Brit/American one! Who is getting holidays on Christmas and who wishes her clients on Valentine’s Day and Thanksgiving! On the other side of this spectrum lie the RSS/Shiv Sena party people. They have these centers for cultural studies and preservation. Here they are taught how Valentine’s Day is invasion of western culture and how they should abolish it.

Taking the same idea to the next level, here we are in a globalization era. A wave; that has lifted the economy and as a fallout ‘Us’. Because of this wave I see myself spending around 2 grands in about 2 days (sometimes even one hour – impulse buying) and yet there are 50 percent or more BPL families whose annual income is somewhere around this figure. The economists say that we have come to a plastic age (debit cards, credit cards et all) where you are assured fluidity of cash, so that you never fall short of finanaces when it comes to the DRESS you just fell in love with or SHOES you just cant live without. But there are people who let alone the fact of possessing debit cards but are trying hard to get a few coins in their piggy bank everyday..There are suicides because the rains failed; there are murders because the crop of that person was better. I see the younger generation knowing what the problems India is facing, knowing what can be the solution to the issue and yet I see Brain-Drain, I see people saying “this is the system problem…India will remain like this, it cannot change” I see students all over India coming together standing united and then I see our very own Govt. turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to them and still implementing Reservations! There is a huge hue and cry on environmental/conservation of wildlife issues and yet we go ahead and rush into signing treaties with IAEA and becoming a nuclear power (the biggest threat to a safe environment); rampant hunting of animals for pleasure, for decorating ministers’/celebrity suite. Nothing is stable in the money markets and yet the stocks are rising. The number of girls succeeding in SSC/CBSE/ICSE or junior high is more than the guys and yet girls are being compromised on( increasing number of dowry deaths, Husband beating up his wife, Rape) is omnipresent. Security has increased, newer and stricter laws are made and yet the incidents of Rape cases have increased and the number of accused convicted have decreased. Women are getting empowered; they are getting better jobs in myriad of fields. They are striving for equality with men and are coming very close to it. And yet an educated woman compromises when there are clashes in the house when the alpha male ego is hurt (I wont say this is the case all the time but it is most of the times)

Thinking about all this suddenly the contradictions in my life seem very puny, very inconsequential, very small. So I have a choice about sulking how miserable my life is OR look around and see how lucky I am……..

Why India Works- An Article by Shekar kapur

I found this article a good read. Its by Shekar Kapur, the reknowned director.

India is blessed with such abundance of talent, but they lack opportunities and support.

Why India Works – written by internationally acclaimed film director Shekhar Kapoor.

A greater ‘hole in the wall’ you cannot imagine. A small fading sign on the top saying “Cellphoon reapars” barely visible through the street vendors crowding the Juhu Market in Mumbai. On my way to buy a new Blackberry, my innate sense of adventure made me stop my car and investigate. A shop not more than 6 feet by 6 feet. Grimy and uncleaned.

‘Can you fix a Blackberry ?”
‘Of course, show me”
“How old are you” ‘Sixteen’ !

Bullshit. He was no more than 10. Not handing my precious blackberry to a 10 year old in unwashed and torn T shirt and pyjamas!
At least if I buy a new one, they would extract the data for me. Something I have been wanting to do for a year now.

‘What’s wrong with it?”
‘Well, the roller track ball does not respond. It’s kind of stuck and I cannot operate it”

He grabs it from my hand and looks at it.

“You should wash your hands. Many customers have same problem. Roller ball get greasy and dirty, then no working’

Look who was telling me to wash my hands. He probably has not bathed for 10 days, I leaned out to snatch my blackberry back.

” You come back in one hour and I fix it’.

I am not leaving all my precious data in this unwashed kid’s hands for an hour. No way.

“Who will fix it?”
‘Big brother.’
‘How big is ‘big brother?’
‘Big .. Umm ..thirty.’

Then suddenly big brother walks in. He is no more than 19.

‘What problem?’ he says grabbing the phone from my greasy hand into his greasier hand. Obviously not trained in etiquette by an upmarket retail store manager.

‘Normal Blackberry problem. I replace with original part now.’

19 year old ‘big brother’ rummages through a dubious drawer full of junk and fishes out a spare roller ball packed in cheap cellophane wrapper. Original part? I doubt it. But by now I am in the lap of the real India and there is no escape as he fishes out a couple of screw-drivers and sets about opening my Blackberry.

“How long will this take?”
“Six minutes.”

This I have to see.

After spending the whole morning trying to find a Blackberry service centre and getting vague answers about sending the phone in for an assessment that might take a week, I settle down next to his grubby cramped work space.

At least I am going to be able to watch all my stored data vanish into virtual space.

People crowd around to see what’s happening. I am not breathing easy anyway.

I tell myself this is an adventure and literally have to stop myself grabbing my precious Blackberry back and making a quick escape.

But in exactly six minutes this kid handed my Blackberry back. He had changed the part and cleaned and serviced the whole phone. Taken it apart, and put it together.

As I turned the phone on there was a horrific 2 minutes where the phone would not come on. I looked at him with such hostility that he stepped back.

‘You have more than thousand phone numbers?”
‘Yes’.
‘Backed up?’
‘No.’
‘Must back up. I do it for you. Never open phone before backing up.’
‘You tell me that now?’

But then the phone came on and my data was still there! Everyone watching laughed and clapped.
This was becoming a show – a six minute show!

I asked him how much?

’500 rupees.’ He ventured uncertainly. People around watched in glee expecting a negotiation. That’s $10 dollars as against the Rs 30,000=$ 600 I was about to spend on a new Blackberry or a couple of weeks without my phone. I looked suitably shocked at his ‘high price’ but calmly paid him. Much to the disappointment of the expectant crowd.

‘Do you have an I-Phone? Even the new ’4D one?
‘No, why?”
‘I break the code for you and load any ‘app’ or ‘film’ you want.
I give you 10 films on your memory stick on this one, and change every week for small fee.’

I went home having discovered the true entrepreneurship that lies at what we call the ‘bottom of the pyramid’. Some may call it piracy, which of course it is, but what can you say about two uneducated and untrained brothers aged 10 and 19 that set up a ‘hole in the wall’ shop and can fix any technology that the greatest technologists in the world can throw at them. I smiled at the future of our country.
If only we could learn to harness this potential.

‘Please wash your hands before use’ were his last words to me. Now I am feeling seriously unclean

The Song Birds

I live in a gated community in the heart of  Cochin city. It is  a small locality, with just nine houses. Barely a kilometer  away from the hustle and bustle of  South Railway Station, our enclave  is a haven of peace and quiet.  Far away  from the madding crowd, as it were.  The sound and din of the city traffic do not bother us; there is just one high rise apartments nearby, and the closest supermarket is more than a kilometer away. There are a couple of old fashioned provision stores in the vicinity selling milk, bread,  eggs and all the usual items one would see in a store in a village.A corporation truck that comes to clear the waste or the bus that wants to save time disrupts the traffic occasionally; otherwise the road is mostly filled with usual cars,bikes and pedestrians engaged in quotidian chores. As I leave my house for work each day, I see almost the same faces – some going to school, others picking up milk and daily  provisions  at the corner store,  few senior citizens diligently  taking their morning constitutional,  and some regulars returning home after their daily visit to  the local  temples.

All in all, an oasis of serenity. A sort of bucolic retreat  in the middle  of a crowded city.

Naturally, the area shouldn’t be  green and verdant, but it is thanks to the disputed property that belongs to a neighbor. The area is thick with foliage and trees, and the sights and sounds of a forgotten childhood that assail our senses constantly. Bumblebees and dragonflies fly around impudently during the day, and evenings resonate with the tireless chirping of crickets and the sonorous croak of bull frogs.  Early mornings are simply beautiful .  There is  barely a hint of  magenta  at first, and then as the sky is suffused by a beautiful pink blush, the day awakens  to the refreshing music of the  birds. There is a lot of greenery where we live – several coconut palms and temple trees,  a couple of  majestic raintrees, a konna , a weeping willow, and a number of divi divi trees that  provide a canopy of lush green along the driveway;  and a profusion of   flowering plants and bushes that serve as  cover and sustenance to a variety of songbirds. Sparrows, swallows, koels, thrushes, larks , kingfishers  - are in abundance, and they all  appear simply joyous to be alive!

More than a month ago, I noticed a  pair of red whiskered bulbuls busying themselves around a decorative palm near my front porch. Now these birds are easy to identify. They have a distinctive crest, and a fan tail. Their body is generally a dull brown, with a white underbelly, a red face patch and a colorful red vent near the  tail. The birds typically  feed on fruits and small insects. They are normally not shy of humans, and perch conspicuously on trees and rooftops, sending out a  sharp  three or four note call.  Most mornings, I wake up to the music of their scolding chatter.

I could see that  what these two birds were doing was part of their mating ritual. They  were getting ready to breed. The pair  worked tirelessly, and soon enough, had succeeded in creating a small cup shaped nest with twigs, dried leaves, grass, roots and strips of bark. The overhanging palm fronds ensured that the nest was quietly  tucked away from the roving eyes of predators. And within a couple of days, there were two pale mauve, speckled eggs resting inside the nest.

Then followed a period of incubation. One bird would sit on the clutch of eggs, while the other would forage for food, and bring it back to its partner.  Everyday, even before I had my morning cup of coffee, I would check on their status. I also became a vicarious parent of sorts, watching and observing my avian friends, waiting in anticipation  for the eggs to hatch. After about  fortnight of waiting, I found that the alchemy of creation had taken place. Th eggs had hatched, and I could see two tiny naked heads, eyes closed,  jostling comfortably in the nest. . Both parents were close by, perched on trees, zealously guarding their off spring against any intruders, the air filled with the sharp notes of their constant warbling. Were they warning me to back off, I wondered. After  a few days, I saw that the baby birds had opened their eyes, Of course, they were still helpless and depended on their parents to feed them.

And then, one morning, after about three weeks,  I observed that the nest was empty. I realized that my young wards had fledged. They were ready to stretch their wings and soar forth into the world. The cycle of life was complete. The parents had done their job, and it was now time for the young ones to create their own music. I look around, and I can  see the proud parents perched impudently on the rooftop opposite my house, making joyous music.

I am reminded of an old Chinese saying :  A bird does not sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.

101 things to experience in God’s Own Country!

 

I grew up in Kerala. Spent 25 years here and I figured I might as well use the little knowledge i have and help people to understand Kerala a little better.  People say its god’s own country and devil’s own people. I chose to ignore those comments. So read on and let me know if you share my views. Do add on if u have more things to do and enjoy in kerala!!

1.Wake up to the world’s best breakfast
Kerala’s spread of morning dishes – vellayappam, Uppuma, iddli, puttu, masala dosa,appams etc. have been rated the best breakfast in the world by Travel & Leisure magazine. A must-try is the crisp lacy appam served with meat/vegetable stew.

2. Walk-through paddy fields
These are different walking experience. Venture in to the very heart of the paddy fields, on narrow dykes. Don’t lose yourself completely in the dazzling green around you, as you’ll have to watch out for the slushy water passages that run through your mud path.

3. Tip toe across a coconut trunk bridge
In the interiors of Kerala, you’ll come across plenty of small water bodies with these extremely narrow Bridges. Watch the native folk cross them with case, but think twice before you do. It isnt your cup of tea, don’t worry. Further down the water’s edge you’ll find a more friendly bridge.

4. Sip tender coconut
Refresh yourself with a sip of cool tender coconut- nature’s rejuvenating nectar – and a scoop of its soft white flesh, Nutrition at its natural best.

5.Take a swig of toddy 
Ask your tour guide to arrange for fresh madhura kallu (sweet toddy extracted from the coconut palm) and have it the Kerala way with exotic karimeen pollichathu (baked fresh water fish) or spicy pickles.

6. Stay on an exotic houseboat
Embark on an enchanting journey across sun – dappled backwaters on a kettuvallom-fully furnished traditional rice boats. While your eyes explore the rustic life that floats by, treat your palate to backwater delicacies prepared by your personal chef.

7. Ride a Canoe
Drift along serene waterways in a country craft, Enjoy the breeze, answer a cuckoo’s call. Wave back at the cheerful village folk on the banks. Invite some of their chirpy children to hop in for a ride. They’ll keep you well entertained.

8 Workout on a treadmill
In Kerala, traditional treadmills are still used to irrigate the paddy fields. Try your luck with the local farmer and see if you can get to pedal one.

9. See Chinese fishing nets
Watch fishermen tug at these huge nets with their rich haul. These nets that billow from massive bamboo poles were brought here by traders from the court of Kublai Khan, the Mongolian King. Their silhouettes against the evening sky make for terrific pictures too.

10. Choose your pick from the Fisherman’s net
Along the Malabar Coast and at Vasco da Gama Square in Fort Kochi, you can select your favorite from an inviting display of juicy sear fish, sardines, prawns, red snappers etc. Ask the friendly fisherman to fry it for you the local way.

11. Feast on kappa and meen curry
Try Kerala’s hot red fish curry with steamed tapioca or boiled rice. It’ll make your mouth water as well as your eyes.. But you’ll still enjoy it.

12 Savour a Sadhya
Seat yourself on the floor, roll your sleeves up and get started on this multi-course feast of rice, 12-15 vegetarian dishes, spicy pickles, crunchy banana chips, crispy pappadams, plantains and payasam- the dessert. Served on a plantain leaf, the meal is eaten with the fingers.

13 Wear a Kerala saree
Stun your friends in Kerala saree – five metres of fine off-white cotton edged with golden zari, that lends an extraordinary elegance to the person wearing it. Each piece is specially woven on a traditional handloom.

14. Wear jasmine in your hair
Get yourself a string of jasmine-the natural ornament for your hair. You could even pluck them fresh from a garden and string them yourself.

15 Spice up your life
Kerala is the Spice Coast of India. Take home a chest full of exotic spices and win compliments for your aromatic cooking. These are also available in special gift pouches.

16. Ride on 8 tonner without wheels
At the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary in Thekkady, you and your friends can majestically ride into the scenic jungle on an elephant. A mahout will guide you on your enchanting journey.

17 Watch birds
Spot egrets, herons, Siberian stork, darters, teals and hundreds of other migratory birds in Kerala’s enchanting bird sanctuaries. Hear them sing. Take their Family photograph. Applaud their aerobatic skills.

18 Follow the tiger’s trail
Join the Thekkady tiger trail- a real adventure trek into the dense forest with expert guides. Cook in the jungle. Sleep in tents. Wake up to the sounds of the wilderness. Try and spot a tiger.

19 Design a floral pattern
During Onam, the harvest festival in August/September, you can see colourful, beautiful floral decorations in the courtyards of Kerala’s homes. Try making one with family and friends.
 
20. Cheer a snake boat race

Watch the backwaters of Kerala come alive. Feel the excitement bubble in you as teams of 100 oarsmen row their snake boats, their bodies swaying in unison to the fast rhythm of full throated singing, in one of the most exhilarating water sports.

21. Feel the rain on your body
Kerala’s invigorating monsoon will cleanse you, refresh you and rejuvenate you. Let it run down your body, and wash away stress. So don’t just listen to the pitter-patter on the roof. Step out.

22 Munch an uppumanga
You’ll simply relish a meal that is accompanied by uppumanga, tender mangoes preserved in brine for months (the longer, the better).

23 Get an Ayurvedic massage
Gift yourself new life. Surrender to the magical fingers of specially trained masseurs. To medicated baths that will refresh you. Herbal diets that will replenish you. Yoga that will revitalize you. And meditation that will recharge you.

24 Say hello to the Nilgiri Tahr 
Half the world population of the endangered Nilgiri Tahr live in the Eravikulam National Park at Munnar. Friendly as they are, you can pat them or pose for pictures with them. So meet them and have plenty to brag about when you get back home.

25 Sip fine tea
Take a walk through the green carpeted tea hills of Kerala and strong aromas will lead you in to the factories over a hundred years old. Here you can taste and pick up the finest tea in the country.

 

 26. Marvel at elephant pageants
The spectacle of 30-60 caparisoned elephants will enthral you as they move in a majestic procession, while trumpets and drum beats work up to a frenzy. The best of these spectacles is seen at the Thrissur Pooram.

27 Listen to temple music
Panchavadyam is an orchestra of 5 native instruments – suddha-maddalam, kombu, edakka, elathalam and timila. This traditional temple music accompanying elephant pageants builds up the festive spirit. And never fails to leave its listeners entranced. Audio cassettes of panchavadyam are available.

28 Visit the local markets
Small stalls with fresh vegetables, fruits, fish, chicken… High pitched salesmen luring you with impossible bargains. Visit these bustling markets or chandas for fresh buys.

29 Go bananas
In Kerala, red, green and yellow are synonymous with various types of plantains’. These digestives come in different shapes too — tall, short, stout, sleek… And while you taste banana chips, raw banana dishes, banana milk shake, banana ice cream, dried bananas, fried bananas… you’ll wonder if there’s any other fruit more versatile.

30 Try your hand at percussion
Kerala’s rich repertoire of percussion music and instruments is world famous. So bring alive your taste for good music and learn whatever your holiday allows.

31 Cheer racing oxen
Entertain yourself at a Kumbala, the local ritualistic bullock race of Kasaragod or a Kaalapoottu – the agrarian sport of Palakkad.

32 Shop for souvenirs
Kerala’s handicraft centers have an extraordinary collection of wood, coir shell and sandlwood souvenirs, trinkets and jewellery. Woodcarved Kathakali masks, snake boats, elephants, jewellery boxes etc. are perfect showpieces for your drawing rooms and ideal gifts for friends.


33 Stay in a tree house
Spend romantic nights in the tree houses of Palakkad washed in the sweet scent of the forest flowers, and let the sounds of the forest fill up your dreams.

34 Have a mud bath
Go in for mud thereapy and discover its healing properties at the Kavil Bhavan Yoga and Cultural Centre at Nileswaram, Kasaragod.

35 Bask in sunshine
Screne, secluded and spellbinding. Kerala has some of the best beaches in the world. Ride the surf. Get a tan. Build sand castles. Or simply sift sand through your toes. Anything you do here will unwind and relax you.

36 Watch a Malayalam movie

Malayalam movies have excellent story lines and some of them are internationally acclaimed. If you visit the State during a film festival, you’ll get to see good movies with English subtitles.


37 Bathe in healing waters

 Don’t miss your chance to take a dip in the waters of the Nelliyampathy forests in Palakkad or the mineral springs at Varkala. These waters are known for their medicinal properties. Take a splash, heal yourself.

38 Buy gold for all occasions
Kerala’s gold jewellery, intricately disgined and delicate, will steal any woman’s heart. Make sure you have enough money on you before you step into a gold shop. Because whatever be your taste, you’ll find patterns you’d wish to own.

 

39.“Mirror,mirror…”
An Aramula mirror is made of a finely polished alloy of four metals – copper, silver, bronze and lead. Once a closely guarded preserve of royalty, these ornamental mirrors are exceedingly rare-only two master crafts men and their families still make them.

40 Feel the presence of God at Maramon
Witness the largest Christian convention of Asia at Maramon, near Kozhencherry. Interestingly, the waters of the Pamba River dry up every year to reveal sands that serve as the venue for the event.

41 Ride in an autorickshaw
Explore the streets of Kerala in an autoriscksha, a three wheeled taxi painted yellow and black. Don’t be surprised if you meet a driver who has a degree in English literature or is fairly fluent with the language.

42 Peep into your future
The fortune teller on the street has your future written on his cards – your career, your life, your life partner and more. Just show him your palm and wait while his parrot picks your card from the pack.

43 Spin coir
See nimble fingers at work as they spin water treated coconut fibre into long ropes with a traditional hand spindle in the suburbs of Kollam. You can shop at a number of roadside stalls for brightly coloured coir door mats, wall hangings and carpets.
 
44 Learn exotic art forms

Watch kathakali, mohiniyattam, theyyam or thiruvathira and pursue one that interests you most. Learn how a story unveils through the eyes, fingers, feet and myriad expressions of the artist.
 
45 Rock about in a bullock cart

On a pleasant evening, treaverse the scenic mud roads of Kerala at the unhurried pace of a bullock cart. The tinkling bells and roll-over-from-side-to-side motion of the cart will pull you into a lazy reverie.

46 Walk the lanes of Fort Kochi
Put on your hat and sunglasses, wear comfortable sandals and embark on a walking tour of Fort Kochi where bastions, churches and mansions built by the British, Dutch and the Portuguese, 500 years ago will greet you. Interestingly, Vasco da Gama, one of the world’s greatest explorers, was buried here.
 
47 Order a meter of tea

Stop by a thattukada, a roadside kiosk, for a steaming cup of strong tea. Watch the expert stretch it to a metre while pouring it from glass to glass, blending it well and building up a tempting froth in the process.

48 Climb rugged heights
Not all places to visit in Kerala are on well travelled roads. Or on roads at all. Hike up rugged terrains at Munnar, Wayanad and Kakkayam (Kozkikkod) for an exhilarating experience. If you haven’t tried rock climbing before, our experts will teach you the tricks.

49 Engage in water sports
An adventure sports lover will rarely find time to stay idle in Kerala. Her beaches provide you with unlimited watersporting options of wind surfing, rafting, sailing, power boating and even that of a simple catamaran ride.

50 Take a train through paradise
A train journey is an interesting way to experience Kerala. Get a window seat and watch the landscape unfold like pages of a colourful picture book, or acquaint yourself with your fellow travellers who make interesting profiles

 

51. Treat your sweet tooth
The famous Mithai Street of Kozkikkod has everything to make your mouth water – from heavenly haluvas, juicy jillebies to creamy milk sweets. Relish them as they melt in your mouth.

52. Study rare flora
Treat your eyes to exotic orchids, anthuria, sandalwood trees etc. in the forests. One of these, the rare Neelakurinji, bathes the mountains of Munnar in blue once every 12 years. It is expected to bloom next in 2006.

53. Romance the spice hills
Holiday amidst the sprawling tea plantations, picture book towns and winding lanes of Kerala’s mist clad hill stations – a world where tranquillity abounds. The dense tropical jungles in these hill stations house some of the exotic bird and wildlife sanctuaries in the country.

54. Watch the making of an Arabian dhow
Witness this 1500 year old tradition at Beypore. It takes an expert team of 15-30 strongmen at least two years to shape a vessel in wood. Locally called uru, this Arabian trading vessel is fast fading from the shipping scene.

55. Bathe in waterfalls
Nowhere else will you find water so playful, so pure, so pacifying. Crystal clear waters cascade down the mountains of Kerala, gurgling, whispering, laughing and cleansing everything in their way. Watch them wake serene rivers with a magnificent splash.

56. Go arty
You can browse in the art galleries for hours without track of time. Among them are collections of the world famous works of Raja Ravi Varma, Raja Raja Varma, Svetlova, Nicholas Roerich, rare murals and masterpieces from China, Japan, Tibet, Bali and other parts of India.

57. Visit scenic Kuttanad
Explore the lush paddy fields of Kuttanad, the rice bowl of Kerala – the only place in the world where farming is done 1.5 or 2 m below sea level. Kuttanad is in the interiors of the beautiful backwater district of Alappuzha.

58. Taste Payasam
The payasam, a rich milk delicacy prepared with vermicili, gram or rice, is a delight for the plate. The most common dessert of Kerala, the payasam is made in scores of flavours and garnished with raisins and nuts fried in ghee. It is usually eaten with salty snacks.

59. Feast your eyes on the largest mural
The palaces and museums of Kerala have an exotic collection of ancient murals. The Krishnapuram Palace at Kayamkulam displays the largest of these masterpieces – gajendramoksham – which belongs to the 18th century and depicts an event from mythology.

60. Watch Theyyam
Theyyam is the oldest ritual art form of Kerala, Look on in awe as Theyyam performers invoke the temple diety Bhagavathy with their frenzied dancing and throbbing temple music in the courtyard of village temples.

61. Try coconut hair oil
The secret of a Malayali woman’s long, black, lustrous hair could be yours too. Coconut oil is considered the best nutrient for hair and a coolant for the head. In Kerala, both men and women massage oil on their heads before a bath.


62. Explore a tharavad 
Relive the old times in the perfect settings of antique furniture and exquisite woodwork in Kerala’s heritage holiday homes and nalukettu (quandrangular mansions with a central courtyard), each more than 50 years old.

63. Learn Malayalam
Malayalam, Kerala’s sweet toned language, has 56 letters in its alphabet. Try learning the basics and roll the words off your tongue.

64. Star gaze
Steeped in astronomy, Kerala’s planetariums will show you much more than Mercury, Venus and Mars. Buy a ticket to the evening star gazing sessions and experience the wonders of the universe.

65. Holiday on an island
Spend a weekend on Kerala’s islands or lagoons, and experience special moments . Spectacular sunset, balmy backwaters and succulent seafood at Bolghatty, Pathiramanal, Poovar….These paradises can be reached only by a ferry or boat.

66. Picnic beside virgin lakes
Pack a picnic basket and spend a romantic evening beside the crystal clear lakes near Munnar. Try your luck at fishing and feast on your fresh catch. Go for a long walk hand-in-hand, undisturbed. Lie down on the most comfortable of grass beds.

67. Go paragliding
Sweep across the lush green hills of Munnar on a paraglider and enjoy the vantage of an eagle. See the soothing blues and greens of nature. Enjoy the wind beneath your wings. Feel on top of the world.

68. Walk in to a palace
Besides exquisite wooden architecture, the palaces of Kerala flaunt the finest floors in the world. Floors that, surprisingly, need least maintenance – being made of crushed coconut charocoal, egg whites and the sap of plants. You’ll also see collections of antique sculptures, paintings and bronzes.

69. Muse in a Museum
The museums of Kerala, especially the Pazhasiraja Museum at Kozkikkod, pay full tribute to outstanding crafts-historical and contemporary ornaments, temple carts and Ivory carvings of life sized figures of Kathakali in full regalia.

70. Watch Thullal
Thullal, an exotic art form, and the rhythmic sounds of music accompanying it will keep you in a constant stage of merriment. Humour, satire and social criticism are its hallmarks. This art form was fourmulated overnight by the renowned poet, Kunjan Nambiar.

71. Visit the zoo
The zoological parks in Kerala have plenty to excite the animal lover in you. The Trivandrum zoo is one among the best designed in Asia and is set amidst woodlands, lakes and lawns.

72. Wash your sins away
According to a myth, sage Narada was approached by mendicants who confessed to having sinned. The place he created for them to pray for redemption is known as the Papanasham beach (papanasham meaning redemption from sins) at Varkala, Trivandrum. Take a dip and come out feeling clean in your heart too.

73. Go nuts
You can get raw, fried, grilled, salted and spiced cashews at surprisingly affordable rates from Kollam where cashew plantations and industries abound.

74. Chew into a juicy mussel
It is indeed fun watching mussel collectors anchor their boats, dive down and bring up basket loads of these fresh water delicacies. The shells are later burnt in kilns to make lime.

75. See wildlife from a boat
Watch wildlife at close quarters from the safety of a boat at the sanctuaries of Kumarakom, and Periyar. Herds of wild elephants bathing in the lake, the Indian bison digging his horns into an unaffected tree, the cormorant darting into the waters… a treat for an amateur photographer.

 

76. Learn Yoga
Relax your mind with yoga at the special ashrams in Trivandrum and Nileswaram – the cultural centre of Kasaragod. Sessions are conducted by spiritual gurus and experts in the field.

77. Walk the historic Kappad beach
This is where Vasco da Gama landed in 1498 with his men in three vessels. Here, you’ll find an interesting landscape of rocks that sprawl right into the sea. An 800 year old temple stands nearby.

78 Munch on crispy snacks
Kerala has a wide range of crunchy snacks- ethakka (banana) chips, chakka vattal (jackfruit chips), pappadam, kuzhalappam, achappam, cheeda and churuttu. All worth every penny, spend on them.

79 Meet martial art experts
Kalaripayattu, the martial art form of Kerala, is the oldest and most scientific in the world. Watch agile bodies gleaming in oil and armed with weapons practise their feats-chattam (jumping), ottam (running), marichil (somersault)-to stunning perfection. Explore the Bekal Fort.

80 Explore the largest and the best-preserved fort of Kerala at Bekal, Kasaragod.
The imposing laterite structure rising 130 ft. above sea level, stands on a 35 acre headland that runs right into the Arabian Sea.

81 Behold the Queen of the Arabian Sea.
Kochi, also known as the Queen of the Arabian Sea, is breathtakingly beautiful. Apart from being the commercial capital and the most cosmopolitan city of Kerala, Kochi also flaunts one of the finest natural harbours of the world.

82 Discover prehistoric settlements
The Edakkal caves at Wayanad and the caves at the mouth of the Shenduruny River have interesting pictorial writings and cave drawings from the Stone Age. You’ll have to trek at least a kilometer uphill to reach the Edakkal caves.

83 Say a prayer at the old Synagogue
The 500 years old Synagogue in Kochi is adorned with mid 18th century hand painted Cantonese tiles. Hebrew inscriptions on stone slabs, ancient scripts on copper plates and great scrolls of the Old Testament are preserved here. An age-old clock tower stands nearby.

84 Let a mohini enchant you
Mohiniyattam or the dance of the enchantress reflects the graceful nature of the land. The sensuous, graceful movements of the dancer, clad in gold and off white costumes, will remind you of palms swaying in the gentle breeze and sweeping waves.

85 Spend the night at a Kathakali concert
Kathakali, the four centuries old classical art form, is usually staged at night. Elaborate costumes, ornaments and multi-coloured facial make-up give the artistes a super human appearance, which leaves you spellbound.

86 Cook in earthenware
In most of the traditional homesteads of Kerala, women cook their food in earthenware. For some time-tested reason renders a special taste to the dish prepared.

87 Collect antiques
Stroll up the Jew Street in Fort Kochi for interesting finds like period furniture, ancient coins, elaborately carved pens, ornamental brass latches, antique jewellery, grandfather clocks and timepieces etc.

88 Cruise the backwaters of Alappuzha
Alappuzha, embroidered with a labyrinth of waterways, was extolled by travellers as the Venice of the East. Visit this land where the skiff is the family vehicle, the ducks outnumber chicken and children learn to swim perhaps even before they walk.

89 Meet smart fishermen
It is indeed a spectacular sight to watch Kerala’s smart fishermen outdo the crashing waves by pushing their boats into the sea from a pier beyond the wave point, and simultaneously jumping into it in perfect coordination.

90 See mind-blowing fireworks
Make a wish under a thousand shooting starts -brilliant firework displays that mark the end of a festival in Kerala. And you’ll never miss them as every dawn in Kerala brings yet another festival.

91 Watch a puppet show
Yakshagana Bombeyattu (puppetry) is the art form of Kasaragod. Colourful puppets in huge headgears, elaborate facial make-up and loud attires dancing to throbbing music will keep you entertained.

92 Go for a flower show
Spend a colourful evening with pretty asters, glowing anthuria, exotic orchids, beautiful roses, elegant lilies and a bloom of soft cotton candy at a flower show.

93 Smash the elusive pot
Uriyadi (smashing the pot) is a spirited sport connected with some of the festivals of Kerala. The festive pot colourfully decorated will be hung from a tall pole. All you have to do is try and break it with a stick as the crowd pulls it up and down.

94 Spot a dolphin
If you ‘re lucky, you’ll get to see the dolphins do their grand act at the Cherai beach, in Ernakulam district. Applaud them as they spring out of the magnificent waters with a splash, only to take a marvelous dive back.

95 Buy a Palmyra fan
In Kerala, you’ll find small, handy fans made of medicinal herbal roots, palm fronds, bamboo splits and grass. Get yourself a portable, compact, cute and colourful little fan that comes in handy anytime of the day. When not in use, you could even put it up on the wall as a showpiece.

96 Stay in exotic resorts
Kerala’s innovative hoteliers have amazing experiences in store for you. Some even have Theme evenings when centuries old art forms like Kathakali and Mohiniyattom are performed as well.

97 Savour nectar 
Beat the bees and butterflies to it in a banana plantation. Hold the tip of a banana inflorescence (koombu) to your mouth and suck the sweet nectar.

98 Visit a Snake Park
The Snake Park at Parassinikadavu, Kannur, is the only one of its kind in the whole of India. There are three snake pits and fifteen glass cases full of various species of snakes, and two large glass houses for King Cobras. The snake demonstration conducted is a major crowd puller.

99. Watch thiruvathira
Thiruvathira, a traditional dance performed by women, has simple steps and a single rule-performers should be clad in a Kerala saree. Join them as they sing and move elegantly around a ceremonial lamp (vilakku) or a floral decoration (pookalam).

100. Bring swing to your life; Onam is the season for fun and games.
Visit Kerala during August /September and you’ll find it in every house. The friendly people here will be only too glad to let you join them.

101. Try out new ways to fish
Dangle a rod and line into the flowing waters; sweep a towel through it; feel for fish with your feet in the mud below; or simply try trapping small fish with your hands. Anyway, you’ll never return disappointed.


 

>Till I see you again

>


I don’t exactly know what it is I wait for. That first glimpse? That overwhelming feeling oh so inexplicable when I first lay my eyes on you? Or is it I wait for you to disappoint me by not coming? You buy that quiet certainty which is a recomposed emotion that I put out for you pretty effortlessly. I’ve become an expert at hiding my emotions. I’m becoming more of a woman everyday.

Every bus that pulls closer to the curb, the eyes shine a lil more. So many vehicles pull closer to that curb… The eyes dim a lil with disappointment every time its not you. In those moments between anticipation and disappointment, I live. Life is a process of slow disenchantment. You don’t think Sleeping Beauty ever regretted being kissed awake? She found comfort in the story that was her. Somewhere in it she held close the purpose of her existence.

I know the exact direction you will come fro but still the head turns restlessly this side and the other. I don’t want to know anything for sure. So I pretend to be unbiased and look on either side of the road at not so equal intervals. I gave you all my love. It didn’t matter to you that much.

In that first moment where I see you before you see me, I crease out the folds of the silliest smile you ever saw. You never saw rather.

And then I see you. The feelings that rush up… one of these days I’ll learn to not hurt so much.

I hang up my face and pick up my collected mask. You know it better. I’m learning to know it better too.

I don’t rush into your arms. You don’t open them for me.

We meet a zillion first times.

Hi.
Hi.

I am whispering your name
I am telling to the wind
Your love has brought me here
‘Til I see you again
I am opening the door
I will let this moment in
Your love will find me here
‘Til I see you again’”