Monday, 30 March 2015

Sights of Summer 3: Copper Pods/vaagai




These trees are a delight to the weary eye of the summer's heat. The golden hues of this tree almost seem like anointing the sight and place with yellow balm that at once makes you forget the harsh summer sun and the icky feeling of the heat. The tree commonly known as ''Copper pod'' (Peltophorum pterocarpum) is a common avenue tree and also a prominent one on College campuses.

A Copper pod in our College campus which often makes me stand still on my tracks

Often while walking across to a class in another block, I stop, admire the beautiful yellow sitting smug on the green and then resume my walk. Students who are forever surprised by my sudden stops, often find it amusing that a tree can make me linger. If I have the time and whim, I force the student to stand along with me and drink in the delights of this tree which is in its complete glory during the summer months. Like the Indian Laburnum, the yellow of this tree almost drowns you in a golden haze but the yellow of this tree and the Laburnum is slightly of a different hue. While the Laburnum is a gentle yellow, the yellow of the Copper pod is dark and harsh but pleasing.

If one decides to lower one's gaze and scan the ground beneath the tree, a yellow carpet covers the place and it is quite hard for me not to yield to the temptation of sitting down in the carpet under the shade of the gigantic Copper pod!


On idle summer days, I have seen many a weary traveller finding comfort under the shade of this tree by the road and many a lovers finding the yellow carpet a welcome spot from prying eyes and strict teachers. Well, I bet, every Copper pod has many stories stored within its huge trunks!

On that note, I hope you enjoyed the yellow stint with the Pod, Copper Pod of India's summer!

Images: Blogger's own

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Sights of Summer 2: Indian Laburnum/konrai/kannikona/amaltas/golden shower tree




Our campus is quite a sight in summer with splashes of golden in the form of Indian Laburnum konrai (in Tamil), scientifically known as Cassia fistuala and another tree which I will discuss in my forthcoming posts. For long, I have been thinking of this particular tree as a resident of Kerala since my amma always used to mention that this flower appears during the time of Vishu, the onset of a new year according to the Malayali calendar. I was reintroduced to the tree when I saw a mention of this tree in the Sangam poems. It did not matter much to me then for I did not then know that the tree my mom mentioned and konrai were one and the same. Years later when I married a man from Kerala, he pointed out the flowers to me and mentioned that its name was kannikona. Then rereading the Sangam poems, I realised the konrai and kannikona  were one and the same. The flowers look beautiful and like the raw mangoes, they bring joy to my mind and senses. They hang in bunches and from a distance one, can see splashes of yellow and some green of the leaves. I find it rather difficult to tear off my eyes from the trees while I spot them during our evening walks in the campus. These trees also dot my College campus and whenever I have to go to the canteen, I slow down my steps so that I can take in the beauty of these golden showers. These are the most photographed trees. I have resisted clicking pictures for I might miss the pleasure the moment has to offer. I therefore will post pictures sourced from the internet.



These trees are also found in large numbers in Goa, Tamil Nadu and Kerala; Wikipedia tells me that this flower is the national flower of Thailand.

The flowers proudly seem to celebrate the colour of summer in their shade and spritely demeanour. They also remind me a lot of the daffodils that can be spotted during summers in England. Yellow is the overlapping factor between the two flowers which are otherwise quite different in terms of the size of the plant and the structure of the flowers.

For your reading pleasure, I share a poem from the Sangam age translated from Tamil by my teacher and mentor Nirmal Selvamony:

Stupid, surely, are those large-stemmed Laburnum trees
that mistook the unseasonal rains
and put out, on their branches, lush, pendulous racemes
even before the monsoon he spoke of
when setting out on stony arid paths.
 (koovattanaar, kuruntokai 66, Sangam ilakkiyam 1: 616)
 
In the short poem, the girl is getting restless waiting for her lover for he promised her that he will be back by monsoon when the Laburnum (konrai, kannikona) is in bloom. The girl sees the flowers bloom before season and is forlorn and lovesick.

So, here I share another sight of summers in Goa/India.

Image 1: Internet
Image 2: Internet

Friday, 27 March 2015

Sights of summer: Raw mango/kairi/mankai/ambuli

Starting today, I plan to embark on a series of posts on the sights of summer, which I hope will revive my writing and blogging. Fingers crossed.




Raw mango is something which is appealing to people across the board and when I spot trees laden with clusters of raw mangoes, I cannot but help lick my tongue with memories of tanginess amalgamated with chilly powder and salt. Yum. ambuli as it's popularly known in Goa is a hot (excuse the pun!) favourite among many. While engaging my students in NSS activity, a group of students suddenly disappear and after a tiresome trial, I spot them throwing stones at the mangoes which call out bewitchingly from the trees situated at a distance from our place of work. That not sufficing, the students take the trouble to go to the canteen and bring small papers which hold a mixture of chilly powder and salt. The thought of it is enough to tantalise my taste buds! Summer time and aiming at raw mangoes hanging on the trees (often unknown people's homes) is almost like a summer stereotype. We have done it, our grandfathers have done it and the children of today do it.




Raw mango has a host of recipes which keep the women and some men busy in this time of the year for soon these raw mangoes will turn into plump yellow things which again are a fantasy for some (not for me, though). And to help the mango flowers to blossom, there are the mango showers or rain in summer which signals the onset of a mixture of memories. And, of course the yummy pickles with a riot of colour, taste and spices - an eternal summertime memory.


During the time, raw mangoes dot the landscape, the summer is not yet in its harsh and cruel state - it is still bearable and in spite of the sweat, the evenings are cool and soothing.

I wonder if you have ever had raw mango slices with chilly powder and salt. Do try and I can guarantee that your taste buds will tingle with delight and shock.

Image 1: Internet
Image 2: Internet

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Summer days and pepsicolas

Summer is like the post-coital feeling - not everyone takes to it after the lovely splash of spring and the bygone chilly days. Though the post-coital session evokes warmth and a sense of fulfilment, it cannot compare to coitus itself. Period. The sweat and the addendum to it makes it a tad difficult for me but then there are some bright spots (literally and metaphorically) to summer. The appearance of water/musk melons, pepsi-colas and other summery delights alleviate the problem of post-spring/winter melancholia partially. Summer also signals the end of the semester and examination blues. I thought after becoming a teacher, I would be free from the end-of-term low tide but looks like the end always comes with a sting of boredom, a sense of forlornness and loneliness of having to bid adieu to a set of students with whom the year was spend in wanton abandon, endless gossip, conniving moments and of course some lessons. I will miss them and that feeling makes me a bit morose.


The beach which beckons during warm summer evenings is a welcome relief


The weather is synonymous with my mood and talk. It reflects on my actions and words. Though I try to avoid wearing the weather on me, I seldom succeed. All and sundry realise or eventually come to know of my disdain for summer which is quite conspicuous through my behaviour. I yearn for the sunniness to pass - give way to cool monsoons and sweat-free bodies. And yes, the summer also brings the smell - full throttle! Sweat from the body sans any deo which is feral and raw and often overpowering. I am someone who has heightened olfactory system which oft works against me, conspiring to outdo the summer's already raw nerve.


But summers also bring along the promise of a monsoon which is just two months away and without a summer, there is no relief of the rain. So, I rest my case and await the monsoon eventhough I know that it will be a long wait. Waiting is a way of life in India, you see. I am not complaining.

Image courtesy: Blogger's own picture

Friday, 13 February 2015

Searching for home in a post-postmodern world

In today's world, the word 'home' is a charged and loaded one; While some debate the idea of rootedness and one true place, certain others dialogue homelessness as a feature of the postmodern home. These thoughts and more, accosted me while I happened to accidentally stumble upon Lisa Ray's article, where she claims that she is homeless and the reasons she attributes to her state is: ''one house under renovation, and the lease on another starting in mid-March . . .'' I cannot but be amused with her choice of words considering her background and social standing. Perhaps there might be some significance of her celebrating her 'homelessness' but given the social condition of today's world where the problem of refugees and illegal immigration is a cause for concern, Ms. Ray's living out of suitcases, hopping hotels and airport jumping definitely leaves one with a taste of ash in the mouth.

 
 
Well, she could be justified with her claims as many in the postmodern world cannot pin down 'one true place' as their home. We have several homes today - the home where we were born, the home where we were raised, the home where we grew up and after our marriage, the home where we live as an independent family which often comprises of the husband, wife and children. I have often been in a dilemma when after marriage, I was repeatedly told by many loving family members that my husband's home is NOW my home. Well, changes do not often happen overnight and the idea of thinking of my husband's parents' home as my home was a bit stifling; Home is often associated with memories and nostalgia (the word nostalgia itself in Greek means, ''homecoming'') and how can one think of a completely different home as one's home. Probably the idea was to getting used to 'owning' responsibility in a different sphere which from the time of marriage becomes the playing ground of action. It takes time, I understand. Home becomes home after many years of living and soaking in the place, people and peculiar culture of that specific home.

 
Coming back to Lisa Ray's homelessness, I could just manage a raised brow for I could not comprehend her state. Pity, sympathy and anger in equal measure coloured my thoughts. She mentions her father. Does he not have a home? Does his home not welcome the daughter? Perhaps the daughter has outlived her father's home and yearns for her own space and that is preventing her from living a life with a home. Or perhaps she finds a strange comfort in living out of suitcases and hopping flights and calling herself homeless. Is she a refugee running away from familiarity or is she afraid of living in one place for a long time. Sometimes homelessness is a state of mind rather than that of a 'real' place, I come to understand.

Reader, what does home mean to you and what do you think of Lisa Ray's predicament?

Saturday, 31 January 2015

The joy of escaping

I have always known that reading is cathartic but only recently woke up to the fact that reading makes me come alive and that it can save me from the drudgery of everyday routine. When I escape to my College Library and pick up some random book and lose myself, I realise that I am happy, safe and sane. Reality as this is sometimes mind-boggling as you never realise how much you need reading and how much the written word penetrates within your being. Losing oneself in words is an escape - an escape into the void of no return. When you then return to reality after that escape, you realise that things are no longer the same. You carry that bit of voyeurism that you chanced upon in that escape and you personalise it - almost like how people monogram their initials on that worthless piece of handkerchief. You know the lust and joys of that place where you escaped to and it is your secret - unless you choose to allow someone to partake of that guilty pleasure. Even then, you retain parts of it to yourself. You want certain bits to your self you see!

I recently read chanced upon a back issue of World Literature Today and relished the piece, Le Suicide Monsieur M. The piece moved me - I discovered the power and magic of the written  printed word. I was charmed. Smitten. Aroused and what not. The entire piece was written in the form of a letter by a city. I assumed all the while that the letter was written by an admirer who had lust confused for love. Well, it could have been written by anyone but this was by Iowa city. Pretty neat for a city!

I wonder if you have tried reading something when you have tons of backlog - It is like forbidden pleasure - you experience longing and guilt (guilt because you should be working on something else and longing for the words which you have been ignoring for long!) Reading is like the surrogate lover who has the power to seduce you anytime and any given day. No fixed bearings and no passage of time can wane the seduction. I succumb and forgo reality. I prostrate myself and forget etiquette or morality. I drink on that word and lose my morale. I am addicted.

Reading makes me sane.

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