Friday 12 October 2018

We are TEN today!

Milestones are always a reason to be happy even if I am the lone one celebrating the same. On this day, in 2008, I had started out the space - A space of my own to store my thoughts, meanderings and reflections. The name did not take long to materialise unlike the thought of keeping this wee space alive and throbbing. Many times, I have been tempted to shut down this blog for I felt that I wasn't giving it much attention. I'm glad that I did not!

As always, I pledge to write regularly, to keep my thoughts safe and freeze them for posterity.

Leaving you with some of my memorable posts:

1. When the house lizard signifies 'home'

2. Forgiving and Forgetting . . . I could add a clause there

3. What stuff is humour made of?

4. Working hard to reverse stereotypes

5. The Journey - A Conversational Post

Here's to many more!

Thanks for sharing the journey of my meanderings and reflections. Hope we continue to travel together in the days and years to come.

Keep visiting!

Monday 8 October 2018

'96 - Gender fluidity and conversation beyond words

Last evening, the husband and I watched a Tamil film '96 starring Trisha Krishnan and Vijay Sethupathi. My sister had earlier nudged me to watch the film. I quote her, "Don't have high expectations. It's a simple film. Just sit back and enjoy." She was right about the film being simple but she was wrong about the high expectations. Watching films quite often, as audience, I guess we allow ourselves to imagine cliched dialogues and familiar situations; This cliche is what was absent in C. Prem Kumar's '96 - a nostalgic walk sans the melodrama and long tear-jerked dialogues. The film's power lies in the unspoken words and quiet moments interspersed with a powerful soundtrack. It was as if the lyrics of the songs were snatched from the minds of the audience.

'96's strength lies in C. Prem Kumar's treatment of the entire plot coupled with beautiful cinematography. The visuals in the introductory song was subtle, beautiful and set the tone of the film. But what captured my mind was the way the director broke down the roles of men and women. Ram (Vijay Sethupathi) was not the macho alpha-male who tries to prove his brawn and brain all the time - he acts feminine at times and does not fail to feel shy or cry when the situation arises. Similarly, Janu (Trisha Krishnan) is not the coy and gentle character - she takes the lead in the second half of the film and comes across as someone who does not hesitate to ask questions and chide Ram as the situation demands. The presence of her thali or meti does not interfere with the bond that is shared by the erstwhile lovers.

The entire second half of the film's tension lay in the premise of whether the erstwhile lovers will profess their love and probably make love - but Prem Kumar destroys those age old cliches and gently leads us through the night. Sometimes when nothing much is conveyed through words, the facial expressions and body language take over and this is precisely what happens in the film. I must confess that I break into tears quite easily and '96 was one such film where I was reduced to tears, not once or twice but during several instances - the tears were for the powerful lyrics of the first song, the thought that something might have happened but did not, the blink-and-miss situation when K. Ramachandran went to see Janaki Devi in her college and all the What ifs which were generously spread throughout the course of the plot. The word 'perhaps' is the tagline of the film for me - The perhaps and the what ifs caused the free flowing tears and I guess that would have been the cause of the many tears that were shed by the audiences who watched the film.

The tears also flowed for the bygone years which was so familiar to me while I was in my X, XI and XII standards. I fondly remembered the long walks in my school's corridors where boyfriends/girlfriends waited for a glimpse of their beloveds; the quiet, stolen glances in classes, the sharing of tiffins, the school uniform, the absolute lack of communication when someone is absent and no means of finding the reason, the cycle sagas, the hero pen, the splashing of the ink on the last last day of school, the innocence of first love and FLAMES - Prem Kumar brought every element of those days alive for me. It comes as no surprise that my batch was the batch of '97 - not very different from the batch of '96. I could identify every single character from my own school days and perhaps that's why the film moved me and the fact that I am so away from Tamil Nadu and everything familiar pushed those extra tears to fall. 

Sunday 7 October 2018

The Janus-faced attitude towards the holy cow!

This evening, listening to radio and making a mental list of the groceries to be purchased, I was broken out of my cocoon when our vehicle stopped abruptly on the NH 17 B, a little before the Dabolim junction. There were many vehicles which had stopped and people were running helter-skelter; We also saw many cattle running on the highway. We sensed that something was amiss. While we were guessing an accident, we saw a calf lying down on the highway, a little before our vehicle. It was almost on the verge of dying. My husband had just stepped out of the vehicle to find out what had happened because there was a crowd a few meters ahead of us - another cow, a pregnant one had been hit. There was also a bike which had fallen down and there were no humans who looked injured.

As I was taking in the situation, a man from somewhere rushed with water and poured it on the calf and gently into his mouth. It was a moving sight nevertheless raising questions in our minds - Would someone have cared if a dog or cat was hit. AND the question of straying cattle also accosted our minds - On the one hand, we revere the cow and raise its status to that of a mother and giver so much so that hell breaks loose when beef is consumed in certain parts of the country BUT the 'holy' and revered cows are left on their own to stray, eat plastic and disrupt traffic on the highway. This dualism/Janus-faced behaviour could be seen in many aspects of religion and culture - Revere the goddess and hold festivals in her honour but to think that the goddess could menstruate and bleed is unacceptable.

The issue of the cow and the woman is but an instance in the Janus-faced behavioural pattern of the citizens of this country If the cow could be seen as an extension of us and our family then the question of allowing it to stray and eat plastic does not arise at all. Since the cow is seen as a being worthy of worship and reverence, it is kept away as the 'other.' This process of othering by veneering is not something strange to the Indian society. For hundreds of years, there has been a dichotomy of the self and the other of humans and non-humans. This brings us to the question of nature-culture, which is often seen as a dualism. The primal community by calling the tree as their sister or the dwelling place of their ancestor have included the same in their daily lives in spite of giving due reverence to the tree but in the state society, the cow which is compared to the mother, earning the term, 'gaumata,' is a mother only in name; The mother is left to stray and even die in some cases. If such is the treatment of the 'holy' mother, I cannot but imagine the state of the literal mother!

Similar sentiments expressed in this blog-post is echoed in the documentary, The Plastic Cow (watch here: by Kunal Vohra. The documentary shows the two-faced treatment meted out to the cow and the sad state of plastic accumulating the stomach of the cow.

India is a country of contradictions which are often crude and sad and it might not surprise me if the swear words, "holy cow," was coined in India (it is not, though)!

Sunday 23 September 2018

What happens when you plan to lose yourself?

Yesterday after a long long time, I had an opportunity to listen to a flute recital by Pandit. Pravin Godkhindi - yes, a wonderful time to lose yourself in the notes of the flautist! The evening had just began and we were settling down as the musicians were warming up. Alas! the setting had something else that was not part of our plan - The three ladies in the front row had settled down as well BUT with their conversation and attending calls on the mobile. That they were sitting in the midst of a lovely flute recital was of no concern to them. They why attend the recital, is my question.

Without much thought, I blame the mobile phone revolution that has bereft people of courtesy, manners and kindness - the three which stand in direct contrast to individualism! The three ladies were insulated as they enjoyed talking in 'loud' whispers and blissfully attended to not one but several phone calls while also filming the flute recital when they weren't busy chatting. What irks me is that I could not ask them to stop, while my companion after a few irritated looks, decided to ask them to STOP. Well, they did stop attending calls but started talking in loud whispers (I bet they were berating us).

The mobile phone which has no doubt given us many pluses has also insulated us while amidst a gathering, communal gathering and so on. Imagine this: we are enjoying a quiet lunch with our loved ones and all of a sudden the mobile phone buzzes - we rush to get the call in the meanwhile breaking the invisible circle of the chatter and catching up; While we finish the call and return to the circle - the circle has closed and it takes an effort of ten to twelve seconds to get back. But after getting back, if further calls are encouraged, then the afternoon is lost.

While it is easy to dismiss young ones of the mobile culture, it is sad to see that this phenomenon has seeped into every age bracket and gender. Have we lost the meaning of collectivism after the mobile has entered our lives?

Does the small machine control our behaviour so much so that we forget a lovely flute recital and attend to small talks?

Wednesday 5 September 2018

Teaching at 25 and after 35

The title gives away the topic and I guess that you already know the content of this post but then HOW I say it matters, and I hope that this keeps you hooked.

The passion: Waxes and wanes

The energy levels: Waxes and wanes

The students: A general lull in life

The subject: Partly exciting, partly drudgery

The feeling every morning: Depends

The situation (physical, mental and emotional): Like a graph

End result: Growing older also means that one has some firm ideologies and notions which are a bit difficult to alter nevertheless I tend to allow myself to be questioned and amused by students. Sometimes it so happens that I already know what is going to be uttered but I still shut up because students - sometimes tend to surprise you and break your pre-conceived notions!

Will I teach forever: I don't know

Would I like to teach forever: I am pondering

Bottom-line: CARPE DIEM (Every single freaking day!)

Friday 22 June 2018

Vacation conversations in Kerala - Mostly

Hello, when did you come?

How long you are here?

When are you leaving?

How did you travel?

Did you travel alone?

- - - - - - - -

Hello, how long are you here?

When did you arrive?

Is it raining there in Goa?

How did you travel?

When are you leaving?

- - - - - - - -

Hello, how are you?

When did you come?

When did your college close?

How long are you here?

How will you travel to Goa?

When is your college reopening?

- - - - - - - -

Hello, hope you are well.

When did your college close?

Will you travel with your husband to Goa?

Did you travel alone?

How long will you be in Kerala?

- - - - - - - -

Repeat mode for all the days when I meet people.

Tuesday 19 June 2018

Curiosity killed the cat: Reflections at the beginning of a new academic year

'Curiosity killed the cat,' goes a popular adage but for a teacher, a wee bit of curiosity is required to keep their vocation live and throbbing. Standing at the threshold of a new academic year and the beginning of my fifth year in the college that I teach (M. E. S. College of Arts & Commerce), I am filled with a sense of excitement plus trepidation - new sets of students, new and old subjects, same subjects and new students, same students and new class, old students and new teaching methods. Curiosity about the new methods in teaching, curiosity to find out about the new students, curiosity to use crazy strategies and curiosity to understand my personality better is something the teaching fraternity should practice as a matter of principle. When the Principal addressed us (the staff) this morning, my takeaway from his speech was the word, ENGAGE. While referring to the usage of audio-visual equipment, he mentioned, "Don't just use the Power-point presentation, try to engage the students.' The word stirred me - I questioned myself abut the word, ENGAGE. Do I really engage my students or prattle off what is required and walk off? Do I effectively engage ALL the students or just a few vocal/smart/ambitious ones? How do I reach out to every single student present in the class? 

Many in the teaching fraternity would like to remain teaching the subjects that they have always taught. Reason: There is no much preparation required. But I beg to differ. Every single batch is a brand new one. I don't deny that the same types of students exist in every class but every individual has a different personality which requires a different strategy. I reckon that one cannot afford to be lethargic and lackadaisical either about the subject or the student. But I guess, it's easy to remain unaffected and plod on without any enthusiasm for many of them.

At the beginning of every academic year, I strive to introspect and reflect on my abilities to create a better version of myself, different from the previous year. This preparation gives me part enthusiasm and part trepidation at the commencing of every academic year. I look forward to the newness at various levels and the additional joy of the monsoon during the reopening time brings a spring to my step. And curiosity does not always kill, it does help us ENGAGE as well.

I do wish to ENGAGE and not merely complete what is assigned. May the force be with the teaching fraternity. 

IMAGE: Internet

Wednesday 16 May 2018

Madras Musings

A terribly cliched, title, I realise! Over the years, visiting Chennai, time to time, I have grown used to the oscillating emotional scales; The roads, smells and the sound of Tamizh being spoken - Once all these used to evoke a sense of deep melancholy within me but I now seem to have made peace with them. I now no longer gush at the flyovers and the electric trains which were strong reminders of the yellow past. I have not completely lost the sense of nostalgia as I step down from Indigo into the bustling city. I still allow myself to be moved, turn misty-minded (not eye, mind you) and gasp at how different Meenambakkam used to be and smell. Today, I was a tad apprehensive when a good friend asked me to board the Metro and meet him. I have never boarded ANY metro in my life, I quipped. "It's nothing," replied he. How would he know the trepidation. I, of course have moved past the initial moments of apprehension and have decided to be brave enough to get into the metro and experience the joy that I have often seen on Facebook posts of people who have put up pictures of their 'First Metro-ride.' As I get older, experiencing something for the first time does create a small flutter in the pit of the stomach. I try to remember when I first took the electric train - I honestly don't remember that - It was after all a long time ago, say somewhere in 1990 or was it 1992. Let that be!

I think after a point, years blur, memories fade, though not entirely gone. I guess that I have been out of Chennai for a long time now that old memories are being replaced by new ones. It is not a conscious process but something that happens but not without leaving tiny remnants in the back of the mind. On a normal (read relatively younger) day, the sight of jasmine flowers would send me into a dizzy ride which begins with, "Malli poo reminds me of . . ." but now, I just stare at the flowers - blank in the mind devoid of stars in the eyes. I still love their fragrance and texture but don't have the urge to grab them and store their presence in my hand for eternity.

I still think whether I should return and search for a job in Chennai. And then, I think of the traffic, the hard water, the irritation of the heat and stop my thoughts. I know that I cannot return. Returning seems like a sweet respite that is tinged with nostalgia, only beautiful in the crevices of the mind. I am content with dwelling in the tiny state of Goa with all its warts and minus the malli poo and khusboo idlis. Whenever in Chennai, the affection wanes after three days when I begin to get restless with insipid days. The intoxication remains only for a time after which the land of Feni beckons.

Sometimes, I wonder which is the home - where is my heart and what does it mean to be traversing to places which are considered  homes. I guess I should thankful that I have not relocated out of the country, otherwise I would constantly be in a restive state of doubt about home(s).

Image: Internet

Tuesday 3 April 2018

Kashmir Diaries - II

Bonding over Kahwah and Wazwan

There is no greater equalizer than food, I believe and in Kashmir, the word kahwah is a passport to warmth and unlimited joy. Having read about the magical concoction called 'kahwah,' we were eager to experience the taste of the liquid heaven, after landing into Kashmir. For the first two days, we were unaware of what it would taste like and how the tea would feel in our mouths. The wait proved worth the time when we finally got to taste kahwah! It is not an exaggeration when I say that every cup of kahwah has a story - of how it is brewed what ingredients go into into it and how it is served after meals. I could narrate at least a dozen or more 'kahwah' stories and yes, this is what life is all about - Sipping on a cup of hot kahwah and discussing vital facts such as the brewing of the concoction! And wherever we were served kahwah, we were asked, "Do you like it?," "Has it been made in the proper manner?" "Did you enjoy the drink?" and so on. So much so, even while we were in Gulmarg, there were dozens of men selling kahwah out of a flask to the sing-song tunes of "Hot Kashmiri kahwah." 

Hilal, our lovely taxi-driver and guide

One specific incident which comes to my mind is that of Hilal, our taxi driver quipping, "Kahwah?! Who wastes time and gas preparing the drink? We don't. It's better to drink normal tea than brew kahwah which consumes a lot of time." If you read on the laborious preparation of kahwah, then you will have to agree with Hilal, the taxi-driver. But no worries, you could always buy kahwah powder which is readily available in many of the shops and a penny for your thoughts - We also bought one of those bottles and religiously drink kahwah everyday musing of the lovely Srinagar and the life there.

Now, sipping kahwah after a heavy meal is just the right thing to do and especially after a meal of wazwan. How could we leave Kashmir without letting wazwan attack our taste-buds! Wazwan is an assortment of meats over rice and served in a big thali. The thali (plate) could be shared by three to four people. The place where we were treated to wazwan was recommended by Hilal, our taxi-driver. The waiters who were serving us were quite happy to see us and repeatedly asked us about the food and its taste and of course, they smiled a lot. Smiles and hospitality is something we witnessed in every place that we visited and one frequent question was, "Do you feel safe?" "Were we rude with you?" "How do you feel visiting our state and talking to us?" - These questions and more were a constant reminder of the state of Kashmir and the undercurrents of fear that is always associated with the place. One has to visit the place to understand the ethos of the place and not go by what we see and read in the media.

One of the items of wazwan

Food was always a point of connect for us while we were in Kashmir as everyone's face lit up when they saw us eating their food and talking to them about their food. Next time, you go to any new place, bid goodbye to your staple food and venture out to try the local cuisine - and then come back and tell me the story of your experience.

A boy grating radish for the chutney/raita served with the kebabs

Images: Blogger's own

Sunday 1 April 2018

Kashmir Diaries - I

First impressions

Kashmir is something like a sweet dream - One always thinks of visiting but never really proceeds with the idea for it seems like something forbidden. I was quite happy and honoured to be invited to go to a conference in Kashmir; I was going to finally taste the forbidden fruit. I had never ever imagined that I would visit Kashmir but yes, life takes you to places that might never be on your itinerary.

My first glimpse of Kashmir was from the skies - the snow clad mountains of the Pir Panjal range in the inner Himalayan region. Snow-clad mountains for somebody from the plains is just out of a dream! As we were gasping at the beauty of the sight, the plane lands and reality sets in. It was indeed living a dream as we we disembarked from the plane. The captain announced that the temperature outside was 9 degrees. Woah!

Our phones with pre-paid connections stopped working. We had no way to communicate to the organisers of the conference. We did not mind the lack of connectivity, after all we were in a new place and we had to take in the first impressions of the place. After about 45 minutes or so, our taxi arrived. We were glad. The onward journey was filled with something of a visual attack - we were hungry for the sights and sounds of the place that we often read about in the news every other day.

We attempted to strike a conversation with the taxi-driver and he was reciprocating quite well. We saw the Dal and the 'Save Dal' campaigns; we saw kebab shops on the streets and of course, the traffic. The drivers in Srinagar honk like no one's business - so much so, sometimes they do not take their hand off the honk. A nightmare for us!

Nothing can prepare you for Kashmir - I guess it is the same with every place! You think you understand what is Kashmir but what you see is not what you have known from websites, newspapers and television. You look for signs of what you know but you will be relaxed not having seen anything. Whatever is your impression of the place, you will definitely not disagree with me when I talk about the people, their hospitality and warmth.

I will see you next when I continue this series of posts on my visit to Kashmir.

Images: Blogger's own

Thursday 8 February 2018

Strange weather

Have you experienced strange weather? No, this is not a metaphor for emotional lows - it is really strange weather! Like rain in the midst of scorching summer or a sudden chill when it is not winter. Get the drift?

Yesterday was so - Strange strange weather. We are well into a time with sunny skies and light sweat but yesterday was different. The day mimicked a monsoon day with the sky grey and the mood gloomy; I had imagined that I woke up in the monsoon - only to realise that we were still in February - a  month that has all my students in a strange mood (call it Valentines' mood). And yesterday was 'Rose day.' Do you know dear reader about the 'Rose Day?' It is like a curtain-raiser to Valentine's Day which is still thankfully a week later. The students wish me - "Happy Rose Day ma'am." And I who belongs to another century asks naively, "What is Rose Day?" Giggles. Smiles. Oh! she does not know Rose Day looks and I am told what the day stands for. and I, belonging to another century starts prattling  about how in my day, there was no Rose Day and all, but roses, chocolates, cards, teddies, kisses were all wrapped up in one day i. e. Valentine's Day. I hear them sigh - I guess they were reminiscing how those days there was no expenditure by the day unlike these days when marketing companies came up with newer strategies by the minute to create effective and expensive ways of expressing love. Yesterday, I learnt something new about the Rose Day.

Yesterday was a strange day - I see myself nodding and spouting, "Global warming" to which the EVS teacher quips, "But today is cool, so it's not global warming but global cooling!" I smiled and walked away. I thought of the tsunamis, the cyclone in Chennai in 2015, and the floods of 2016 - perhaps a storm was brewing and cast its spell in Goa.

It then drizzled. Light showers. Didn't I tell you that the weather was strange? No, it wasn't the mango showers. Everyone was thinking and exclaiming about the strangeness of yesterday's weather.

Today it was a bright an sunny day - as perfect as it should be but the weather has cast its mark in me - My throat is sore and my voice is husky. Yesterday remains in me, today!

Monday 15 January 2018

Rathabole's dog

There was a time when I enjoyed these walks; I still do! I used to await the time when Rathabole got ready, put the leash around my neck (I would've liked to go without one, but still) and lead me down the stairs. Ah! The fresh air, the butterflies to chase, the lamp posts which gives me ample opportunities to raise my hind leg and the lazy waddle with Rathabole at the helm. It was heaven!

Until the smart phone became an integral part of our walks!

It was not that Rathabole spoke to me or we had deep conversations but I liked the fact that we both walked watching whatever we fancied and caught out attention. I agree that he is not an amiable man; Many times I have overheard people saying that his smile is a rarity. I think he does not smile much and even if he does, it is but a slight curve of the lips. Oh yes, let me come back to the topic at hand, uff paws! Now-a-days, he is always fiddling with the mobile - perhaps he's an important man and has a lot of things to attend to but why does he do it during the time with me. The leash and I become secondary when the phone is in his hand. The walk turns into an obligation that has to be carried out for my sake - I hate being a liability, you know. I crave for the moments of pauses when both he and I, stop by to watch an aeroplane flying above us, or stopping to say hello with a nod, or just walk lazily without a sense of time. But now, it's not he and I on our walks - it's the triune of Rathabole, I and the inanimate smart phone!

 I think the days of our free walks are numbered. I no longer look forward to the walks - but I need them, after all, otherwise I cannot raise my hind legs on the couches and dining tables!

Disclaimer: This is not entirely fiction. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead is not perhaps, entirely coincidental. Remember to think of that person and chuckle, if you know who it is!

Image courtesy: Internet


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