Thursday, 8 January 2015

"Alone" Time

Slowly but surely the idea and luxury of ''alone'' time is beginning to dawn on India and many Indians. I think being alone and going further to enjoy time alone is or atleast was something that struck like a sore thumb given the context of India and its fetish for large joint families. Ironically, though the population is steadily rising, families are becoming nuclear and people after having short flings with diverse cultures have slowly started relishing and realising that being alone is not equivalent to being lonely.

But what strikes me is how this ''alone'' is defined and understood. The first meaning that popped out when I googled the keywords definition of alone is:

''having no one else present; on one's own''

As much as I like to think that we are closely attached to people, the thought that being away from people is equally preferred has become our definitions of enjoying ''alone'' time. But don't we have to live in a crowded set-up to realise that we like some time alone for ourselves? This contradicts the life lived by people outside India. For better understanding, let me refer to my American, British and Irish friends who have by and large lived all by themselves - earning, living, loving and doing things independently. But does being independent equivalent to being alone? Not necessarily, I reckon. On many occasions, being independent and being alone and enjoying the space is confused. One can live in a large family yet function independently. Or does alone signify getting away from people, familiar people 'only'? And like everything else being alone can be savoured, I reckon, only when one has enough and more company.

Sometimes, force of habit also becomes something to gloat about for lack of a better reason to justify one's actions.

So, what's your take, dear reader?

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Chennai - A concoction of the traditional and the modern

This post is part of the blog tag titled, The CBC Tablog - 3, where CBC stands for Chennai Bloggers Club, a group where bloggers (young, old, new, jaded, bored) from Chennai gather and discuss everything under the sky including blogging and blogs. About 20 bloggers from Chennai are participating in this blog tag where  we will write about our favourite city Chennai and how it stands as a testament to the blend of the traditional and the modern. So here's my post for the CBC tablog - 3 titled, Chennai - A concoction of the traditional and the modern.'

Writing about a place that nestled me for many years of my life from a distance seems a bit excruciating. A post on the blend of the traditional and modern nonetheless. It seems almost an impossible task for me to gather the different parts  picked from memory and desire and knead them into a post. Well, I do hope that as I chug along, I am able to relive myself in the memories that I nit pick and weave them into a worthy concoction.

First, Chennai - though the name is fairly recent but ancient does not capture the essence of the place that is so dear to me. And like the name Chennai, which is at once ancient and recent, the place also displays similar hues - housing traditional tastes, smells, customs albeit packaged in brightly coloured modern wrappers which shock you at first but later settles in familiar smiles. I think every city undergoes a change, rather it evolves with every passing year - changing governments, citizens from neighbouring states, business houses that set up shop - everything contributes to the process in different degrees.

If French style Bistros, 10 Downing Street, Thai eateries and Tibetan momos do not come as a shock, then it is because the same crowd finds solace in familiar idli-sambar-chutney-podi at Saravana Bhavan or in the comfort of their homes. The easy and effortless slipping of beer to filter coffee to Coke, stands example to the shifts in the mind sets of the people as well as the city which houses these people.

Now this traditional and modern is quite natural in some quarters whereas a bit gaudy and uncomfortable in some but both these quarters seem to contribute the wholeness of Chennai. For me getting used to the vernacular name Chennai rather than the anglicised Madras itself was a psychological effort that needed coercing and acceptance and sitting in Goa, I see the city also in a similar way - A city that is named Chennai but has embraced modernity that is more often synonymous with aspects of the Western world without much ado. Of course, the change has not come overnight and without any bumps - We have had our fair of teething problems but we have learnt to accommodate and assimilate.

I pass the baton to Deepak Raghuraman, a vibrant and enthusiastic blogger who adores his Chennai and supplies readers with a mine of information on Chennai in his blog titled Namma Area. If you require any specific information about the city, then you know where to head to - Namma Area (translated as Our Area). Please do visit his blog and show some love, dear reader.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Revival of newness - Cheers to 2015

2014 was productive and resourceful in more ways than one. It spotlighted my weakness and showed me that however I resist something, I yield at the end. The year also enabled me to discover some new people, places and traits within me. Like the beginning of every new year, I look forward to 2015 with hope, longing and joy. To be alive and kicking is something that is not the stronghold of many. Many people who started 2014, did not see its end and I am grateful for being able to do so. I believe that another year is given to me to continue the purpose of my living.

I wish joy always to you and yours and may this year enable you to evolve as an individual within and outside.

Cheers to new beginnings and strength to not-so-new beginnings.

Happy New Year 2015

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Vignettes of Ahmednagar

When I was first told that I had to attend a NSS Orientation Programme in a place called Ahmednagar in Maharashtra, I was completely at a loss. I. did. not. want. to. go. But I had little or no choice. This was sometime in August.

Come November end and I realised with a bang that December was fast approaching and along with December, my time for Ahmednagar was at hand.

The journey began at 07: 45 pm on 30 November. Alone, I trudged with my baggage and thoughts for company. I wasn't thrilled or expectant.

But as always whenever we grumble about something unknown and yet to be experienced, chances are that the experience itself will remain forever memorable and that is precisely what happened.

The moment I beheld the campus of Ahmednagar College, Ahmednagar, I was smitten. The sprawling 80-acre campus was a delight as it brought memories of my 375-acre Madras Christian College. I like big campuses, I must admit. The weather was another factor that added to the charm of the place. It was cold and almost always we had to wear socks, shawls and cover our heads but still it was lovely to not sweat and feel the heat. And, going from the warm of Goa to the chill of Ahmednagar was definitely welcome. And right next to where we were housed, was a hostel of students from the North Eastern part of India. Every night the students would sing to the accompaniment of a guitar and me being the romantic would fall asleep listening to the guitar strains and songs. And, I think on the third day of our stay, there were carol rounds and I could hear Christmas songs throughout the evening and night till about 3 or 4 am. What bliss!

The training per say was predominantly in the local language, Marati but some resource persons were kind enough to present talks with English and Hindi thrown in liberally. If I was keen, I was also able to catch some meaning in the Marati lectures.

Kappad Market (Clothes Market): My usual hangout while in Nagar. I walked through the markets, looking, buying, smelling, laughing and sometimes staring. I had company most of the time (fellow NSS Programme Officers who had come for the training) but still I walked alone with myself and my senses.

Ahmednagar Jail/Fort: Before going to AN, I read up on the place and found that Jawaharlal Nehru, former Prime Minister of India was jailed in Ahmednagar and while in the prison, wrote Discovery of India. I did not want to miss seeing that jail and so when the entire group decided to visit, I was thrilled to bits.
The place has some beautiful sights and the jail itself had been converted to a museum. I also had some good conversations with some of the fellow participants. A broken frame of Gandhi was lying in an obscure part of the jail-turned-museum and I was but taken aback by the state of that picture frame. The play of the sun and the backdrop of the fort was a lovely picture to take back home as a memory and that was what I did.
The broken frame of Gandhi in the Ahmednagar jail

If not for the trip, I wouldn't have known the existence of the quaint town of Ahmednagar and the splendid campus of Ahmednagar College.

I do hope to go back to the College. Fingers crossed.

The silhouette of some participants against the flag in the fort

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Clevage, cats and fish

If you have visited the fish markets of Goa, then the title would not make your mind wander away. The markets are a 'must see' place if you are keen on experiencing a slice of the Goan way of life and believe me there is more than fish here. Well, if you are a fussy vegetarian who cannot ingest the smells and sights of slaughtered sea creatures, then I suggest you stroll in the beaches and update your Facebook status with sun, sea and sand and of course you spoiling it all with a wide grin! No offence, please.

When I first stepped into the market, the assault on my eyes and senses were incredible. I loved what I saw is an understatement. Of course, the smell was overpowering but so is culture! Fish - big, small, medium, white, yellow, orange, black, and the shapes and the variety was indeed a treat. And added to the fishes, crabs and prawn were the fisherwomen - buxom, garrulous, colourful, gold laden and flowers on their hair. They were a picture to treasure. And some had cleavages that could be mistaken for a tunnel - dark and deep. Some of my friends tell me that the cleavage sells more fish if the customer is a man. Well, do we actually need to hear it to know it! And if someone asks for a discount, then . . . the rest is history!

Oh oh . . . did I also mention cats. They dot the entire market and again we find, striped, plain, dotted, black, brown, white, black & white, brown & white, black & brown - They either sleep, eat or longingly stare at the fish and almost always their wait is rewarded. I must say that the cats are fat and lazy. Each one has a favourite spot at the market which can either be at the foot of the fish monger or the spot where the fish waste are thrown or on the lap of the woman/man. People and cats love fish in equal measure in Goa --- some like it raw while some like it hot!

Mario Miranda's depiction of a fish market in Goa

On one side of the market are men who cut the fish for customers for a price of 20 rupees and often while at the job, they strike a conversation either about fish - the cutting and cooking or about life in general and while the tongue utters the hands cut. Their knives, which is a prized possession makes smooth slices of the fish. Some salivate just by watching the fish being cut - Food like sex is a very personal and intimate act and knowing one's taste is the key to enjoying the process.

This reminds me of the film that I watched this afternoon, A Hundred Foot Journey which discusses the culinary experience of a young and handsome Hassan Kadam who enjoys and savours food that he goes on to becoming a Michelin chef. Every time he held an ingredient, I could see that his senses were aroused and delighted - nothing short of an orgasm. Well, I did say that food and sex were not quite different.

So, when food and sex can be mentioned in the same sentence, why not fish and cleavage (too much of Freudian symbols, I reckon ;) )

Image: Internet

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Fear is something that manifests itself in different ways for various individuals. All of us, I reckon have some fear that is ever present, throbbing and threaten to rise any moment. It might be a fear of spotting a spider unawares or bad toilets or simply safety of a loved one. And, for that matter, most of it is psychological.

My parents-in-law have come to stay with us for a fortnight and through them we are experiencing the play of fear. They have come here from god's own country and it would not be an exaggeration if it was said that fear covers Kerala like a shroud. Open doors and windows after 7 pm make my parents-in-law quite tense. The freedom of having doors kept open even at 10: 30 pm gives them a shiver. My father-in-law especially gets restless and time-to-time asks us, "Shall I lock the door?" to which we casually mention, "No papa, it's fine." He cannot sit still and finally when we are not looking, he quickly closes the door, latches all the three locks and goes around to find other doors to close and latch. Well, my husband and I find this quite amusing but we also recognise the force of habit and the fear that is so etched in their minds. The same quality can be extended to many areas of our lives - Children fearing doing something because the parents have threatened them with dire consequences. Sometimes the fear never leaves even when the children are no longer children. Women who do not change some patterns of living long after they have divorced their abusive husband. Senior citizens who have long lived with certain ideas and routines and so on.

Fear is not entirely a negative emotion. Sometimes fear does help - for e. g. butterflies in the stomach before a speech or a class helps in better performance; a small fear before embarking on something big is generally positive and keeps us grounded and gives us a counter emotion to perform better and turn the fear into a motivating force.

But the kind of fear that has gripped my parents-in-law is not quite positive because it creates a tension of danger which is an impediment for them to feel safe and sound. The fear prevents them from enjoying the beauty of the calm night's breeze or the sighting of the moon through open windows. I still cannot blame them but hold the state of Kerala responsible for not providing the necessary policies and system to keep the place free of crime and robbery. Inspite of a police station located right in the adjacent street, my parents-in-law are scared of robbers who usually use different gimmicks to steal from houses.

Some fears don't go away - nor time nor god nor anything can enable a complete removal of the fear. I pray that such fears never grip us at any point of our life.

Dear reader, what is your fear that paralyses your living.


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