Thursday 28 February 2013

Relishing kalla katta ice-gola dripping with tangy memories

Today for the second time in February I had kalla katta ice-gola. I don't know how to translate the name 'kalla katta ice-gola' but roughly ice-gola refers to crushed ice and kalla katta is the flavour into which the crushed ice is dipped. The word 'kalla' in Hindi is the colour black and 'katta' refers to the sour taste. Now, to the post.

Kalla katta is an integral part of my formative years. A man selling ice-golas would be stationed outside our colony and every time I came home from school, I would want to buy some ice-golas but was always refused by my mother. She felt that the water used for making the ice was not hygienic. Of course, all mothers feel that way and we children felt that hygiene or not, ice-golas were tasty and delicious. Every time we passed by the man selling those golas, our mouths would water and immediately we would crave for one or two coloured golas. By the time the man crushed the ice using a dilapidated machine and moulded the crushed ice, we would get impatient and while he fizzed out coloured syrup from tall bottles on to the ice, we would stretch out our hands, one hand with the money and the other for the ice gola! One ice-gola cost about 10 paise. Though it seems a paltry amount today, those days it was some money.

Ice-golas remained frozen in my memory and I never did think that I would be able to taste the same ice-gola all over again. I did. Our Institute conducts festivals during which many food stalls are put up and one such stall was BOMBAY ICE-GOLA. Initially I was wondering whether I should give it a try. Usually when a memory is intact and perfect, one doesn't want to distort it by revisiting the same and get disappointed. Right? Ah, I just wanted that ice-gola and the same flavour that I knew back then -- Kalla katta. The 10 paise ice gola was 30 rupees now! Any price to revisit memories, right. Apprehensively, I muttered, "Kalla katta" and immediately the man started his antics of preparing the ice-gola. The moment I tasted the gola, I became the Susan who was five years old and relished her ice-golas. I sucked memories and also split some nostalgia on my clothes in the process. I forced my husband also to buy one for himself. He did. He preferred to get an elite flavour - pista badam and strawberry flavoured ice-gola. Somehow his ice-gola did not appeal to me. It was too synthetic and modern unlike the raw and tangy kalla katta. Both of us sucked our golas all the way from the stall to our house.

Well, did I tell you my tongue and lips were a tinge of blackish pink after having finished the ice-gola? For some time I was twenty odd years younger, looking up the mirror now and then and happy that the colour was still there - natural lipstick, we used to say.

Memories are beautiful especially food ones. After all in memories calories and health don't matter, only memories matter.

What are your favourite food memories? Tell me . . .

Image 1: Internet
Image 2: Internet

Sunday 10 February 2013

Baring it all

Yesterday I sat up and read five parts of intimate chronicles of a blogger whose blog I follow intermittently. As she bared her soul and life, I was pulled into the vortex of her life. She is a brilliant writer and I couldn't but help feel immense pain reading what she had written. For a long time, the contents of her posts continued to colour my thinking and I wept quite freely for her, for the world, for pain, for everything that seemed unfair. You know how it is when you start crying. You remember every single thing that made you cry and the tears become copious almost as if you're crying for everything that has passed and everything that is to come. One question that kept arising as I was crying was, "Why?" I know that the question seems quite absurd and meaningless but still my heart pained for that promising young woman who is an epitome of everything postmodern and intelligent.

An afterthought that niggled me after the entire reading-the-posts-and-crying was, "How did she bare it all?" "How on earth did she have the courage to record her life in a public domain?" Perhaps she felt the aching need to record her experience as a repository. Her words still ring in my head and if I start to think about her powerful narrative, I would start pouring bucketful of tears. I refrain to think that the pain she wrote about is something real and visceral, not a story of some distant character with whom one can share a dispassionate relationship that is removed from reality; A pain that one can read about and forget knowing that it is the fanciful creative process of someone who is a story-teller. It is another thing that people do shed tears for fictional characters. Even I do. I did it quite occasionally then and very frequently now. I guess as you grow older you are prone to cry a lot. I recollect an incident from my research days. When I was living with transgenders for purpose of my research, I once accompanied them (Pandiammal, Mahalakshmi and Shailaja) to a funeral where they were called to mourn professionally. Professional mourning was one of their means of earning money. The way Pandiammal cried and beat her chest completely baffled me. After the entire ceremony was over, I asked her, "How did you cry so well?" To which she replied, "When I cry, I think of all that we have undergone . . . I think of my mother . . . my family . . . my village and my home. By becoming a transgender, I have lost everything - my name, my family . . . That's what makes me cry like this." True that. When we cry, we don't cry for something that just happened, we have a cluster of incidents that come to our mind. We don't cry for that particular character in the film, we cry for someone whom we know in the same situation, we cry for us remembering ourselves in that same situation. Tears are projections of our collective memories.

When I read that blogger's long rendering of her life and health, I cried for everyone who suffered ill health, for the talents that remain dormant because of the illness, of the dreams that have to be truncated, of the dependence that causes pain to the free-spirit and most of all I also cried because I knew many like her. I felt helpless that I couldn't do anything to ease her pain.

I didn't comment on any of her posts. What could I have possibly written, "Get well soon" or "I'll pray for you" or "I wish that a miracle happens."

She is a stranger to me but pain isn't strange. Any human capable of compassion and empathy can feel pain and that is what I felt and cried for.

I really wish that her ailments leave her and that she continues in her path of life renewed and rejenuvated and write sassy stuff without any pain.

Image 1: Internet
Image 2: Internet

Wednesday 6 February 2013

The uncommon truth about common sense!

While one may complain about common sense being uncommon (For the ignorant, this is a saying by Voltaire!) Well, everyone I have known or presently know has uttered something about common sense in atleast one of their conversations with me. Needless to say, I commonly use the term ‘common sense’ in my daily interaction with my spouse (mainly). Casually glancing through the entry ‘common sense’ in Key Concepts in Social and Cultural Anthropology by Nigel Rapportand Joanna Overing, I discovered that common sense is not something that is done in an impulse. For example, if someone picks up the paper lying on the floor and throws the same into a dustbin then she is not acting with an impulse to keep the surrounding clean and tidy; rather the individual is responding to the situation through a certain conditioning that has been processed within her. Blame it on the genes! To a causal onlooker it might seem that the individual is responding to A particular situation of filth and that common sense is used to clean that filth. No. The person has been conditioned and moulded by her social and cultural setup. Did I get your attention? Well, of course, I just did. So, if a person just passed by the same paper without even giving a second look and acting as if that’s pretty normal, then he is acting the way his social conditions force him to.

It is interesting to connect an individual’s social and cultural setup to commonsense. If Indians talk loudly and gesticulate a lot, blame it on their cultural setup. How can someone from the east behave like one from the west? Next time you want to utter the sentence, “ Doesn't she have any common sense?” you are actually referring to the entire genealogy of a person – father, mother, grandfather, cousin, et al. This baffled me as I always assumed that common sense is an impulse that arises when there is a particular situation. The book also says how contexts many vary but there are certain things that are common to all cultures – certain ethics and codes of conduct. But when I say culture, I am also aware that in India there are many cultures which criss-cross the country but inspite of the diversity, when one steps outside the country one has to go by the tag 'Indian' which is a very cumbersome responsibility to bear. My friend Charan has recently written a post on that Indianism or Indianisms rather which you can read here.

The background for common sense is developed and created right for the time one is a baby. Everyday significantly adds up the existing sets of constructs and actions. While examples of common sense appear quite natural and new, it is nevertheless an amalgamation of the lived, observed and unconscious experience of the mind.

Well, did you say that she doesn't have the common sense to switch off the lights when she leaves a room – blame her cultural background!

Image 1: Internet
Image 2: Internet

Saturday 2 February 2013

Hurry. Grab. Avail. Discount.

The lingo of advertising has always fascinated me. Even trash can be marketed so very well by using magic words that enchant and attract the customer. More than the usual ads, the discount and sale time ads always thrill me. I receive a couple of newsletters from online shops and almost every time the words 'discount, grab, avail and hurry' are used quite often and unsparingly. No matter how many times one sees those words, they never fail to make you stop for one second and make you think of the wonderful products that might be yours. I was just wondering about those single words and how they might be used in our life.


You have only one life. Hurry with positive thoughts and inspiring words. Don't stop. Hurry to make your life filled with goodness and compassion.


Grab any opportunity that can make you come alive. Life gives you many options - art, walks, stars, laughter, working with your hands and many such.


Avail every possibility to be of service to others. Smile and make people around you smile.


This one is tricky. Let me see. Keep away from everything/every one who try to discount your real value.

So, hurry. grab. avail. and discount.

What do you think? You can add your own suggestions to the words in the comments' section :)


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