Sunday, 12 June 2016

Ruminations before the beginning of a new academic year


My college on a rainy day


My college reopens in three days. It will be my third year in this college and after spending two years with the various departments and people, one feels that one has seen it all. In spite of my two years here, I feel a certain anxiety coupled with anticipation when I look forward to the coming year. I will be teaching the same subjects albeit one and more or less familiar with the students as well. The introduction to new energy levels and slightly different goals and aspirations gives me the feeling that a thousand butterflies are preparing to take flight from the pit of my stomach.

I wonder whether every teacher has this feeling of an anxious anticipation. Perhaps they might or they would have become comfortably numb carrying on their business like a robot which is devoid of any tingly pre-academic year sensation.


The path leading to the main entrance again, on a rainy day

Alongside, I also wonder whether I will be like this after ten years. Will a new academic year make me feel giddy with excitement and anxiety. Will I look forward to the raging adrenalines of young students as they burst forth with tireless hormones and shiny smart phones. Will I be able to cope with the information overload that my students seem to possess, challenging me with news of the latest gadget or the selling price of an IPL team. Will I smirk at them when they say that FC Goa has won over Chennaiyin even without me having watched a single match.

Although I complain to others and the students themselves that the ought to shake off their susegaad attitude, I like their company better than the whiny adults who lose no time in making lives miserable for those around them. Well, this is not a sweeping generalisation and all students/adults do not fit into that description. There is a lot of trust and sense of belonging when I am in the company of students. To cite an example, once a senior member of faculty happened to be a bit rude with me and immediately the students started showing their solidarity by vocally stating their position on the rudeness. Even though that incident warmed my insides, I am careful not to take sides or even show a minute iota of affirming their actions. Well, sometimes I tend to romanticise the student-teacher relationship.


The lovely triangle campus with glistening rain

Now, standing at the threshold of a brand new academic year, I cannot wait to find out what kind of students I will be meeting for each class and how they will respond to my theatrics and eccentricities -- They will either take to it or brush me aside as another old soul who tries to be in line with the young minds of this generation.

Ah, well! I hear the pitter-patter of the raindrops as I write, diverting my attention to the beautiful weather. I shall pause to revel in the rain and leave ruminations of my new academic year to be soaked by the smell of red earth and pouring rain :)

Picture credits: Author's own

Thursday, 9 June 2016

A collage of this and that

The past few months just gushed by giving me more than a bowlful of memories. I am afraid that the bowl is slightly overflowing. It happens almost always - there are so many things happening with us or around us that we fail to stand/sit still and savour one moment. But I managed to savour many such moments. It is June and half a year has already whizzed past giving a glimpse of an international conference, some solid academic contacts, a discovery of beautiful places and monsoon in two of the states closest to me - Goa and Kerala (in that order).

Sometimes when beauty happens, there is an urgency to preserve the moment - I somehow want to scribble atleast few lines capturing the moments but I refrain more out of laziness than a stoic vow to etch the moment in the crevices of my mindscape. Alas! How many such moments will I strive to remember. I also realise that I remember only certain happenings; my sister tells me of a time when she was rather pale and sick but me, being me, don't even have an iota of remembrance of that episode. I loathed myself for the loss of that memory. Age is rapidly spreading its tentacles on my once-upon-a-time-sharp-memory. Then I remember that one is only as old as one thinks. Bullshit. One is forced to think of the age only when there are obvious symptoms, such as forgetfulness, in my case.

I guess I should just BE. Thoughts of memories, remembrance, nostalgia and so on and so forth should just happen, not forced out of the person's being. The blog is one such place where I strive to preserve memories but then, did I just say that one should live in the moment and no matter what I do to write what I remember, I am fabricating a story which is romantic and readable. What could be said in a few words, I drag to a post and then gloat over the written crap. Well, I am overfed with so many stories these days that my stories seem jaded to me. Quora, today, jolted me with a line that said that passive entertainment should be cut off from one's life if time and productivity should be improved. I guess that is precisely what I should be doing - limit my online reading of anything and everything ranging from the Stanford rapist to Trump to breast-feeding to yoga poses for a sexy back! I have become a carnivore of the highest order when it came to chewing and swallowing information.

I am tired.

I wish I write more.

I strive.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

An ode to Afonso de Albuquerque

Today, I attended a talk on a small but important island in Goa - the Chorao island. There were many interesting points that were made in the talk by Dr. Aaron Lobo but what stands out for me is that the Chorao island is the place where the Alphonso mango originated. Wow! that was something astounding to me because I have visited the island and there is nothing fascinating that strikes the person on a first look at the island. The island grows on you, much like a cultivated taste - the peculiarity of the landscape, the species of fishes, crabs and other animals that are found only in the island and more popularly, some birds which could be sighted. The island is also made famous by the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, well known for its many varieties of mangroves. But if a lay person visits the island without an accompanying expert, then one might even think that the visit is a waste of time.

Well, coming back to the mango - Afonso de Albuquerque, a Portugese general and military expert brought the variety from Portugal and introduced the same in this Konkan region. Despite the fact that de Albuquerque was helping build the Portugese to establish colonies and conquer various territories, one cannot but help wondering if the Portugese had not invaded the Konkan region, we would have been deprived of this delicious and delectable fruit. Thinking of tastes and food, it is quite sinister of these countries to leave their mark, that too, an unforgettable mark in the country. I don't know how many can actually associate the Portugese and the Alphonso mango but I guess that food and the various ingredients were the primary cause that lured the foreigners to Indian shores - the abundance of spices and the range of plants available for consumption made the guests overstay their hospitality and invariably become the land owners and then rulers of the land.

Not only the Alphonso, India owes to the Portugese many such items that have become commonplace in our kitchen -chillies, vinegar, potato, tomato to name a few. How much ever,  we may bemoan the fact that they destroyed the ethos of the land and made slaves of Indians, we can never ever forget their contribution to the Goan and Indian cuisine.

Thus saying, I bow to Afonso de Albuquerque for giving us the Alphonso, which is named after him but not without despising his ambition to conquer the whole world!

Sunday, 17 April 2016

New found tastes

Taste and sensations are peculiar attributes that have a mind of its own. Recently, I was introduced to Bimli, a sour tasting fruit and Wiki tells me that the botanical name is Averrhoa bilimbi. Now, I am quite fond of the tangy flavour - tamarind, raw mangoes and the like have always held a special place in my tongue. Bimli is something like that. I realise that there are so many flavours and items that one has not tasted and perhaps will never taste! One of my colleagues had lovingly prepared Bimli pickle and asked us to sample her culinary prowess, and I being the tangy-loving entity lapped up the pickle with a zest that only tangy-lovers could comprehend. I quickly made note of the recipe and tried it at home. It wasn't as good as it had ought to be nevertheless, I could see that I was not as lazy as I had thought I might be.



Bimli happened to me quite late in life. I could not imagine that I had spent so many years without tasting this fruit. I think that sometimes it would have been growing in the vicinity of our house but we had never bothered. My husband knows this fruit well and tells me that every house in Kerala has the Bimli (Pulinchika) tree. I wonder how many such fruits, trees and tastes are unknown to us in spite of sharing living space with us. I wish I could identify these gems and die happily in the knowledge of having partaken of the many wondrous tastes of nature.


On another note, I saw a movie in my phone for the first time - The Bengali Night, a French film, set in Bengal of the 1930s. It was weird to see Hugh Grant so frail and gaunt. The film also led me to one of my favourite authors - Mircea Eliade. The film is an adaptation of his autobiographical novel, Maitreyi. The film took me on a wild journey of the years where love was a simple look, holding of hands and rapturous ecstasy. I had always liked Hugh's accent and this film was from an era where Grant was not yet idolised as he is today (a few years ago, to be precise).

Many first times today and I again realise that every day, we have an opportunity to learn and unlearn.

Well, what have you discovered today, dear reader?

Image 1: Bimli (Wikipedia)
Image 2: Wikipedia

Sunday, 14 February 2016

The Last Waltz - A love letter to an imaginary person

Dear Melody (I always associate you with music!):

You might wonder why I haven't used the epithet 'dearest,' but then I wonder whether we ever gave importance to epithets! December and music always reminds me of you and the songs that you crooned over the phone. Well, it is a surprise to me that we haven't ever met but that does not make any difference, right? What we shared was something special - let us not strive to name it otherwise we might end up being slotted in the labels! We chatted, spoke, were angry over unspoken truths, discussed music and life in the wee hours of the night. Time was at our side. Both of us were lonely in our own ways - our loneliness entwined us into a state of feigned togetherness. We knew it right from the beginning but still we carried on reveling in the present and acting that tomorrow will never come. I enjoyed that NOW which is now in a corner of my memory still unlabeled. The Now was all that we had then - How many nows did we forge our togetherness without having met physically. That green light on G-chat against your name would send ripples through my being and you the rascal that you were, knew it perfectly well. I would like to imagine that the same sensation was yours as well when my name was lit by the green dot! I remember the day you called me for the first time - I think it was on my birthday. As the clock chimed 12, the phone chimed in as well. You sang to me - not the corny Happy Birthday song but another song which I don't remember now. I just remember that I was overwhelmed with happiness and joy. I couldn't sleep after that or did I sleep with a smile - I don't remember but I do remember that I was ecstatic. Why after all these years, I choose you to write a letter. Well, the reasons are obvious, it is you that I remember amongst my many loves. Many have caressed me with words and noble thoughts but none have lent music to my being.

I hope you are well and happy (though I would like to imagine that you pine for me in the deepest of your heart without a visible sigh unbeknownst to the world but I also know that it is a figment of my grand imagination).

So darling, save the last dance for me!

This post was written for "Write a love letter campaign by Chennai Bloggers Club'' 

Sunday, 7 February 2016

The curiosity that was Perumal Murugan

Ever since news of Tamil author Perumal Murugan flashed the internet, I was curious to read and probe as to what provoked the saffron brigade. I finally ordered my copy of One Part Woman and keeping aside The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, I started yet another journey into a different historical time and space. It was soothingly familiar as I identified largely with the local lingo, peculiarities and cultural nuances found in the book. Needless to say, it was a stark contrast to cold, pale and distant Japan. Inspite of having completed a good number of pages, TWUBC  is still to ''wind my spring" (a phrase from Norwegian Wood).




Murugan's story is that of Pona and Kali, a childless couple who are sexually and emotionally quite compatible with each other. They have a strong desire to have a child and not being able to bear one drives them to intense anguish and pain. The story is set in Tiruchengode and in the pages, mention of various temples, deities and other cultural markers are liberally strewn. I completed reading the book rather quickly and to my amazement, I was quite engrossed in the story that I forgot to notice the red signals that might have provoked the touch-me-nots. I tried recollecting portions from the book that created such a furore that made Perumal Murugan swear never to write again. What a waste of talent! I then furiously started hunting Google pages to read up on the various incidents that coloured Tamil Nadu after the release of this book. I finally found that the touch-me-nots were incensed by one practise that Murugan has mentioned in his book. I quote from the blurb for better clarity -

"their hopes come to converge on the chariot festival in the temple of Ardhanareeswara, the half-female god. Everything hinges on the one night when rules are relaxed and consensual union between any man and woman is sanctioned. This night could end the couple's suffering and humiliation. But it will also put their marriage to the ultimate test."

The touch-me-nots imagined that Murugan had interpreted the practise in a manner that defiled the religious intentions of certain groups. Well, Murugan is not only a writer but also a teacher of Tamil who has done extensive research on the topic before writing the novel but alas! all that did not matter. What mattered was the 'sexual union' which was depicted as part of the ritual. If set in a modern context sans the deities and temples, the practise would resemble an orgy of sorts where coupling with strange people is part of the whole fun or perhaps a disco which is another refined form of an orgy albeit in a slightly different set-up or perhaps swapping partners for benefit. One can actually try placing certain age-old customs and rituals in today's context of course, with a different set-up. Kali and Pona could easily be a couple who are working in a software company and after twelve years of childless marriage decide to experiment in order to bear children. These and few other parallels were colouring my mind as I traversed through the lives of Pona and Kali.  


On another note, I am glad that the book was banned, otherwise people like me, though belong to Tamil Nadu would have never heard or read a gem like Perumal Murugan (the angst of not being able to read in Tamil is another story for another post!). I have missed reading another banned book, The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie who is another writer who courts controversies much like young models and actresses! Maybe I will soon start a club with the abbreviation BBC (Banned Books Club) and when I do, I will sure put up an invitation for you to join.

Have you read any banned book? Do share your experience.
 

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails