Early memories … What is it about them that brings a slow comforting smile to our faces? When my mom and dad talk about their childhood days, they have this soft smile on their faces – as though remembering something tender. The things they did as children, the era that was, their childhood friends – thinking or talking about it never fails to bring on the “smile”.

On one of our evening walks, my parents told me about how they  and their siblings walked back from school together with friends. As I mentioned earlier, there is a railway track that they had to cross before reaching home. There was also a path to bypass the tracks. The elders at home sent them off with a stern reminder to take the road which bypasses the tracks.

But you know how it is with children. They conveniently forget. At school time one would see lot of kids walking the tracks – competing with each other as to who lasts the most on the track. Thank goodness there weren’t any tight rope acts around or they would be on that too!!

All the kids, deeply concentrating on the tracks, forgot to look out for people who wouldn’t miss a chance to tell on them. As each child reached home, a whack or two eagerly awaited their bottoms.

Next day the same old routine began all over again…. 🙂

When amma told me this, I was astonished. Nobody would dare to do that now, least of all little kids.  Appa said back in those days, it wasn’t really all that dangerous, because you could hear a train coming from miles away. Today, you hear a train come only when its a kilometre or two afar. I smiled to myself – look at the logic of these two defending their acts of mischief from years ago. 🙂

Anyways, all the talk about memories made me wonder about mine and in particular my earliest. I always knew my earliest memory but I keep pushing myself to think of something earlier than that. I guess that won’t work unless I am hypnotized! 😀

Thinking about my earliest memory is always like seeing it happen in the most sweet and angelic way. One afternoon my mother has me on her lap and we are sitting in the verandah. I must have been 2.5 years old and I start playschool tomorrow. She says, “Phaayi tu ek chaanga schoolantu vatta. Nave boooku, baaga, water bottleh, pencils sagga ghevnu vatta. Teacher astali and bhornu friends astale…. ” (Tomorrow you will be going to a nice school. You will have new books, bag, water bottle, pencils to take to school. There will be a teacher there and friends too…) The magic of her words get lost in retelling this incident but when her words ring in my ears, I feel like I am two and half again. She must have said more but I don’t remember any more of it. Just these tender few moments when my mother prepared me for my first day in school… 🙂

Sweet first memory isn’t it? Now I am all ears to hear yours!

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Sixer!

November 5, 2009

Jack and Jill went up the hill

to fetch a pail of water,

But they came down with a Sachin

and gave him to me forever!

😉 Okay okay, that was crazy! But what can you expect on a 6th anniversary if your sweetheart is not sharing the day with you? 😀 Madness, right?

For the light of my life, wishing you a very very Happy Anniversary! 🙂

So long, friends!

October 18, 2009

In two days I am off!

To the place I call home.

Where warm hearts abound.

Good food at every corner.

Shopping sessions beckons.

Where one laughs till one’s stomach hurts.

To see those endearing faces.

To hot coffee on dewy mornings.

To noisy streets. 🙂

And nosy neighbours.  (How I have missed them! )

The temple bells,

The street processions.

The nonchalant cows on the roads.

Chasing the lamb feeding on our lawn.

The murder of crows,

screaming for food.

And the strays vying with them too.

The movies,

Time catching up with family.

Oh, dear India,

I am so happy to

behold you again!

Munni..

September 27, 2009

Munni

Mother of two: She was a young thing – only 12. Yet, it was rather a common sight to see her play the little mommy to my two girls. The youngest among our brood of 6 and might I add – the prettiest? When she came into our life, it was an unexpected ray of hope. She was the cheer we all needed, she was the shade of a tree from a hot day in the sun. She was our dream, our hope and our step into the light. When I had my own two girls, I had a tough time juggling them, my extended family, and my home. That’s when my sister decided to take some of my weight on her little shoulders. She’d often take the girls to my mother’s home – it was not all that far away but it involved crossing a railway track. Her earnest promises of taking the utmost care and to be extremely cautious at the railway line convinced me that my daughters are in safe hands. With the little one snug on her tiny hip and the older one held tightly by her side, off she’d go to her place. Looking at them go, I thank my God for the little angel He sent to help shoulder my overloaded cart. Years have passed, she has a family of her own yet, she continues to be our cheer.Good times are better when she is around and bad times made lighter by her sweet words. She is among the many reasons I believe there is such a thing as God in this world.

The Two: We were too little then to realize how ludicrous it sounds to call her aunt. She is just 10 and 12 years older than us. When we were kids, we always wondered how nobody could see the devil behind her angelic face. Our mother had given her “mommy rights” and she lost no chance to set us right. She could send us cowering under the bed by making her eyes so big. Thank God, grandma was around, else we thought ” We are definitely her dinner!”. She had this weird habit of keeping  our grandma’s house all dark by shutting the windows. She often forced us to sit along with her when she sang the evening prayers and we would squirm and hasten her to sing faster so that we can get back to our play. As children, we though of her as a bossy creature who had a cherubic faced that fooled anyone but us. Then she got engaged. Her fiance was a true blue romantic – he sent her cards, letters, flowers and all. As you may have guessed by now, we were rather nosy. We wanted to see the cards and letters. Only to hear a big NO! That’s when we started spying on her discreetly and found her stash. Our keen observation skills led us to her red coloured notebook, in which she wrote letters to her fiance in rough draft. She copied it out on nice paper once she was satisfied with her draft. So when she wasn’t around, we two would sneak into her cupboard, read all her letters, her cards and her rough drafts. For months after, we threatened her that her fiance is rather mistaken about what he thinks of her and in his best interest, we should set it right! 😀 She’d laugh it off. Then she got married and really went far far away. As much as we troubled her, we loved her a lot and her absence was bothering us. She had done nice things for us – like taking us to her friend’s homes, teaching us beautiful songs like 10 Green Bottles, Do re mi in her beautiful sing-song voice, dressing us up in saris and false hair. In our teens, whatever she did were our beauty tips. 😀 Now we have all grown older and cherish each other a lot more. Like our mother says above, Good times are better with her around and bad times don’t feel so bad when she is there. We ll always be a pain in the neck but never forget we love you loads!

PS: Dedicated to my lovely aunt-partner in crimes-the shoulder-buddy-the laughing machine  who turns a year older today! 🙂

Telling Tall Tales …

August 13, 2009

As I have mentioned in several posts earlier, my little sister is the living doll that I had always wanted. She played her part pretty well too. Every little thing I told her, she took it to be God’s truth. Well, being the affectionate older sister that I am, she didn’t any other choice.

Sometime in the X’mas hols of my ninth year in this world, our family friends dropped in for a few days. They had kids our age and days were filled with making merry. As is the custom in Kochi, holidays with kids are spent in Children’s Park. It was the amusement park of the 80’s. Show animals, gigantic globe that can be turned if all of us put our might together, rides, swimming pool, chaat guys, ice cream, cars/scooters that you can drive,  and even a traffc policeman!! The guests and us had a rollicking time doing all the stuff that kids do – letting our hair down and going nuts! Soon enough, it was getting dark and parents started herding us all back in. That is when I saw the bookseller with the latest children’s magazine! I got my dad to buy the book. I couldn’t wait till I reach home – no sireee, I had to read the book as I walked to the exit.

Suddenly I was gasping for air. Why, what ehh ?? Why the hell am I wet? Because the dummy was too engrossed in the book to realise that she is stepping into a fountain! Luckily the traffic policeman, pulled me out of the water. I don’t think I have to tell you what shade of beetroot I went. My folks quickly rushed me home. As mom was helping me dry off, my poor little sister, came in all concern writ over her sweet face. “Are you okay, did you get hurt?” By now I have had enough being embarassed at my stupidity. I thought some bravado should help me get back to normal.

So this is what I said, ” You should thank God that I am here, you know. When I fell, an alligator dragged me down and I thought I will be her dinner! Lucky for me traffic policeman uncle was nearby!” I can still picture my sister’s eyes going wide and round. And my dear mom, she got to add another story to the Book of Cookie’s Quirkiness!! 😉

A couple days back, my hands were itching to draw a potrait. So here is my little sister when she was 3 years old. When I sent her a mail asking her to guess who the picture is of – she replied it is of her drawn by me when I was in primary school!!  😀

P1000942

Does it ever happen to you when you remember a familar old smell which was buried in the recesses of your mind? Something that you haven’t thought of in a long long long time but remember it suddenly out of the blue? And that too in a place which has nothing to do with it? Well, that’s what happened to me today – a very old but cherished smell. I must have been in primary school then. My dad was allocated a bungalow by the hospital he was working with. It was a lovely place. The dining area was a place worth mentioning. Dark and cool with the soft afternoon light streaming in, our dining had the effect of  being lit up from several candles – mellow and soothing. A huge cupboard with sliding doors lined an entire wall. Opening the door of this cupboard had a magical effect on me – the woody smell of the cupboard, the warm smell of Arrowroot biscuits stored in Lactogen tins (ones which can be opened only with a spoon), a slight musty smell thanks to the humidity of Cochin pervades the air. Armed with a spoon, I plonk myself on the floor after having brought down all the tins that had my favourites. And I spend a few minutes slowly munching on all the goodies, taking in the soft afternoon light, enjoying the afternoon quiet. Amma too, sitting around peacefully after having set the little brat for the afternoon nap. Today the memory came flooding back and brought along with it a case of goosepimples. Unlike what they say, diamonds are not the only things that are forever – the sights, the sounds. and how they made you feel will always stay with you.

Rememeber how Shahrukh Khan takes a deep breath, closes his eyes gets transported to the time his GF was alive in Mohabattein? I rolled my eyes then. But I wonder, if there isn’t a grain of truth to it?

Do you guys/gals have any favourite memories? It need not necessarily be of food, but I understand food is what evokes fond memories in most of us. 🙂 Do write in, I would love to hear from you. 🙂 For those of you who worry about taking up too much of my comment space – Long detailed comments are my favourites, so go ahead and knock yourself out! 🙂

My parent’s generation were the among the first to experience Free India. Though the rule of the English came to an end, the problems were far from over as we all know. The partition happened. People lost their land, loved ones got seperated, identity crises, the wealthy became poor and the poor became more miserable. Our once filled-to-the-brim coffers rang hollow. Disease was rampant. The whole country was trying to get back to its feet.

My folks were born a few years after India got her freedom. Their early years were hard. Money was just about enough to feed all their brothers and sisters. My dad has 7 siblings and mom 5 – so it is a huge family. After saving whatevere annas (The Indian Penny) that could be spared, my grandfather decided to send my dad to medical school. I had once asked my dad, what made you join the medical field. His answer was put so simply – my dad told me to. He explained back then each child took up a field which could be afforded at that point of time. So dad was packed off to Armed Force Medical College in Pune, Maharastra. The education was free if a student is medically fit to join the armed forces. Unfortunately, my dad was not. Hence he had to pay the full fees which was hard for his parents, but they managed somehow.

It is getting difficult for me to continue. I am so regretful of my ungratefulness. Can hardly see the keyboard. All the hurtful things I said to you, I wish I could take them back and shower you with rose petals instead. I wish we understood you better when you needed it.

Yesterday, I was speaking to my sister and she happened to tell me an old story which broke my heart. The holidays were not announced days in advance when dad was a student. They were told at the last minute. So there was no way they could reserve train tickets. All they could do is take a ticket which allows you to only sit on the train and board whichever one going in the desired direction.  Thats what my dad was going to do too – only the train had already started moving. Desperate to get on it, my dad ran towards it and jumped on the doorway only to see the passengers inside slam the door on his face! It was crowded inside and they did not want more people in it. There he was hanging on to the door of a moving train. Till they stopped at the next station after one hour.

Thinking about it horrifies me. Just so that the money he spent on the ticket won’t go waste, my dad clung to the moving train. I thought of all the times I went – I want this, I want that, This is no good etc. My dad wasn’t one  to utter  “You guys are lucky, if you were in my generation …”, he worked hard to fix our little no-issue worries. I now wonder, where did he get that amazing grace to put up with our trivial issues when he knew we were in the lap of luxury? When he knew how it felt to be uncertain of next day’s meal, he understood our craving for Krackjack which wasn’t there in the store that we visited? When he knew how it felt to have to struggle for every bare necessities in life, he indulged us our excesses?

Life wasn’t easy for any of our folks. Yet they ensured all of us are where we are. We owe it to them not to take our present lives for granted. God bless the “New Free Indians” for bringing us to where we are.

A few days ago, I chanced upon Savitha’s post on Ganapathy Akka. Her touching account reminded me of some  people who played a big role in my life. Its been years since I thought of Velayudha Chettan (Chettan means brother, also used to refer older people). When my sis and I were starting school, he had just bought an old auto. He had seen my dad take us and two other kids to school on his motorcycle -Yezdi, may I add? 😉 He approached my dad and asked whether my dad would allow him to take us to school for a small fee? My dad was obviously relieved. So began our life long relationship with Velayudhan Chettan-  short guy with long curly locks and a funny shuffling type of running style! In the early days, Pinks and I did not speak Malayalam (being Konkani speakers) so he would try his best to talk us in Konkani after asking my mom for the right words. He was a good person, fun to be with and treated us to ice lollies/ice creams after every exam concluded. And on days that we got stuck in traffic, his magnanimity was evident when he bought snacks for every child to appease the hunger pangs. (No, he did not collect money for this from our parents later. )

During our early school years, we lived in an apartment on the 1st floor. Our school begins at 7 30am and so VC comes to our home to pick us up at 6 45am. With my mom  yelling  “Cookie, Pinky get ready soon. Uncle is waiting” day after day, we scamper down the stairs and then get settled in the auto and be off for another day at school. My mom’s “Cookie and Pinky” call must have sounded like “Kuppy and Puppy” to VC’s ears I think – why else did he start calling us that? In Malalyalam Kuppy translates to a bottle. Puppy as in a baby dog. My sis liked her new name. As for me, tell me who would like to be called a bottle?? I cringed when he yelled across the school grounds “Kuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuupppyyy, vandiyileke irrikku!!” (Bottle, Sit in the vehicle) Soon all my primary schoolmates knew I was the “Kuppy” – the horror of it all. 🙂 There was this boy, XY in our auto group. He was a nuisance then but is a sweetheart now. Thanks to his fussy ways, he was stuck with VC’s special name for him –Pandaram (Nuisance in Malayalam). Poor chap sobered down soon enough hoping that his new name would be dropped – no chance of that happening, not even now! 😀 Pandaram XY, if you happen to read this, please take it lightly and remember it is coming from a Kuppy! 😉

I was diagnosed with Myopia when I was in the 5th standard and was advised to wear correction glasses. I felt so embarassed about wearing glasses – nobody else had one in my class. I often told my folks I could manage without it. Nonetheless the specs would shoved on my ears before I left. Soon, I started hiding my glasses when I got into the auto and my folks were never the wiser. That is until they saw my notebooks incomplete. They told VC to ensure that I wore my glasses and couple of teachers too. For the next one year VC  always checked on me  to keep his word? 🙂

By this time, every parents wanted VC to take their kids to school. And thats when he got his auto driver buddies involved. Soon there were route maps laid out, which buddy would take which kids, what would happen if one of them goes on leave? All that ensued was a big mess. The other drivers weren’t as fun as VC and they had no attachment towards us, neither we to them. Besides, they also took kids from other schools which would leave us waiting at our school grounds for couple of hours after school. Thats when VC, decided to hire a van.His wife too joined him as a gatelady.Yay!! The fun and games began all over again. 🙂

Then our school dropped a bomb – they are moving to a better location with bigger grounds and all that. And another important announcement – school buses. Our school’s lack of school bus was the reason for VC’s thriving business. His business did sober down a bit and he started looking at other options. Entered Mani Chettan – he asked dad to help him start his school drop business by entrusting us with him. He was a young man and was pretty desperate. We along with a couple of nearby kids joined his bandwagon. In no time, MC too was getting offers from parents to drive their kids to school.  We didnt take too much to MC in the early days. I regret some of the things we told him in our foolishness. If there was a way to take it back, I sure would. Those were my teen years and I pointed out to my folks that one of the school buses pass our house everyday. I checked with the bus driver and he said he can pick and drop us off  at our gate. Irked with all my pestering to join the hip bus club, my folks soon gave up and I started going to my school on the bus. Pinks wanted to be on the auto but my folks insisted we be together, so she too was forced to “bus” to school.

I am never late for the bus. Not my sis – she is a sleepyhead. She will sleep till the last 10 minutes and then scramble to get ready. Her friend Harsha, who lived on the road behind our house, was also like her. I get in the bus and scornfully wait for these lazybuns to join me. In the meanwhile our driver uncle would rave and rant – why cant you teach your sister to be like you? why cant you give her a good shake when you wake up and all that. Inside the house, my mom and Harsha’s mummy would be on the phone discussing how much more “readiness” is left for the 2 brats. My sis almost always gets  ready before her but will hang on till Harsha comes shooting through the back road, jumping over all the hedges –  otherwise the driver uncle will leave without picking her up likr it happened days earlier!! 😉 The bus was like a big promotion for me – many of my classmates travelled on the same and we had a ball. Juicy gossips, finishing forgotten home work, group studies, weekend plans – all that happened here.

With the end of 12th standard, my Wonder Years came to an end and the Magical years began – with me moving to Mangalore. Years later, reading Savitha’s post brought the memories of these wonderful people flooding back and I had to share them with you. Velayudha Chetta, Mani Chetta and Driver Uncle (I am ashamed to say, I dont know his name *hanging my head in shame*) – thanks a million*infinity for your lovely and smooth rides to school and back. for all the invaluable lessons (with emphasis on punctuality and discipline), for all the laughs and lovely memories and for introducing us to lovely friends.

PS: From recent times there is increasing antagonism towards auto driverss ferrying kids to school. Understandably so – packing too many kids in such a little space is horrifying. Our chettas were very careful back then and wouldnt even think of extra bucks by endagering children. To end on a funny note :

The Visitors …

July 5, 2009

Back home in Cochin, when the much awaited visitors arrive, our town awoke from the mundanities of everyday life and bustle with excitement and trepidation. What is the occasion? Why, didn’t you hear? The Gods are coming home! What?

OK, let me explain. The Gods in Kerala love to visit the homes of the devotees. So during the temple festivals, the temple authorities gingerly carry the temple deity atop a sturdy elephant’s back and He would be taken to visit all His devotees. Brightly coloured parasol shaded the God. Besides the God, the elephant also carried couple of attendants – one to hold the Lord steady and the other to wave peacock-quilled fans. A mahout and a bunch of temple authorities walk alongside, guiding the elephant to all the houses.

The households would be well prepared to welcome the God. A mat. diyas, incense sticks, matchboxes, flowers for the God and  couple of coconuts, plantains and jaggery for God’s mount. 🙂 Kids from every house waiting at the gate, looking out for the mighty elephant were a common sight. They would peer into the distance and stare and stare and stare. As if their eyes could bring the elephant on faster. 😀 When they spot him, a collectibe shout would be heard on the street “Phaaaro aylo!!” ( Translates to the God’s procession has come in Konkani. )  The elephant reaching the lane doesn’t mean our turn is pretty soon – a wait of another 30 minutes is for sure. It’s not everyday that God visits and so each devotee dilly dallies as much as possible until the worn out temple authorities snaps at them. (They know every trick in the book by now!) Pinky and I watch from our gate, mouth agape, taking in the splendour of the mighty elephant. We were too young to be awed by God’s presence and so it is the mighty jumbo that got our attention. 🙂

caparisoned_elephant

[Image courtesy the Internet.]

He is a novelty for us everytime. Graceful despite his bulkiness, he was our proverbial tall, dark and handsome hero. He waits patiently, looking on, as people worship the God on his back. At times he gently stomps the grounds with one of his rear legs to chase a bothersome fly. Othertimes he stretches his legs. At no time ever, does he lose his VIP look. Arrogant yet wise at the same time.  When I think of it now, he seemed to know he was part of a sacred team. After a long wait, the beloved Pachy finally started trudging towards our home. With every little cloud of dust kicked up by his heavy feet, our heart beats faster and faster. There he is, right at our gate, watching over us. Up close he looked as if he filled the whole of our little world.  Quickly helping our mother with some of the rituals, a hurried prayer to the God to bless everyone we love and then we get back to staring. 🙂 We just couldn’t peel our eyes away from  him.  We offer the treats for our friend through the mahout who  encourages us to feed him ourselves. Hearts in our mouth, we extend our hands filled with treats. He makes a little huffing noise and then the jumbo gently flicks it up with his trunk. He senses our awe cum fear. As softly as possible he bestows a little pat/blessing on our heads.  With that, the procession moves on. We stare till they are out of sight.

Then life becomes calm and quiet again.

PS : Here’s a Wiki page that I came across depicting Elephants in Kerala’s culture. It is an interesting read.

*Update*As part of prevention of cruelty to animals, this ritual has been discontinued from this year. Taking into considerations how poorly the elephants are looked after in some temples, it is big relief for the gentle giants. On the other hand, I mourn the death of an age old ritual.

Rads just did a very interesting tag and has an open invite at her site. What were the professions that you wanted to be in as you grew up?

Most times I wanted to be either

a teacher – because I loved to write on the blackboard

a doctor – because I loved syringes and to cure people of illness

a social worker – because I wanted to help others be successful

a painter – because I loved colours

And then came the dreaded phase!

I wanted to be a trapeze artist in the circus!! Yes, that’s right!

I loved Enid Blyton. I owned several of her books and among them was  the Circus Series. Whenever I read this series, I was transported to a different world altogether where I was the brave little Lotta, who in a bid to save the circus travelled 100’s of miles on her horse. I knew then and there, I was destined to be in a circus.

I would go to every Circus that comes to my town and be mesmerized by the shiny and skimpy costumes the artists wear. Imagine having bears, tigers, lions and elephants for pets? And not to mention the cute boys! The idea of packing and moving to another place every couple months never ceased to awe me. I so badly wanted to be in a circus but my dad never let me! Whether I grovel, threaten, bawl my eyes out or whatever, my daddy would never entertain the thought of his dotty in a circus. I would be bitter for days.  And then all was forgotten.

Until Rad’s tag brought it all back. (No, no, Silly – I am not going to pick another fight to join the circus. Come on, I am not so bad now!) My dad always said at the time, “You may be upset now but you will thank me later!” And guess what, its about time  …. Thank you so much Appa for saving me from my own foolishness.  If it weren’t for you, I would be in some remote tent, infested with mosquitoes,  wearing only shiny clothes and blogging away my woes ( Yes, I think I would have found some way to blog! ) I do hope that kind of foolishness doesn’t overpower me again. It is the one ambition of mine that I am glad dint work out!! 😉

So what did you all think? Want to take up the tag too? Go ahead, its a free for all!

PS: Those of you who laughed at poor formerly-foolish me, atleast drop in a comment! 🙂