A Niagara vacation

A Niagara vacation

The long weekend had begun with some customary practices by the MA traffic police. Having succumbed to the exorbitant speeding ticket, on the eight hour drive to Niagara, we were forced to keep to the speed limits on the temptingly empty roads. Upon reaching Niagara, flocked by a gazillion tourist, we too bore the brunt of long lines for the various ‘attractions’ on this man-intruded fury of nature.

My last visit to this place was almost a year ago, when we had foolishly settled for the go-to bus guided tour, a cheaper alternative provided by the enterprising Chinese immigrants. Sadly all I remembered about that journey was the annoying two hour wait in the claustrophobic bus for micturition; while Niagara from the last weekend had other surprises in store.

A zillion non-resident aliens and immigrants from India were swarming Niagara and its ambience. I was subtly reminded of the Russel Peter’s show, where he cued quite comically that the earth will soon be taken over by the multiplying Indian and Chinese population. I was further victim to the foreign feeling of the very hypocritical desi mentality, to irk at a junta of our own, conveniently ignoring the fact that the feeling is mutual. The sari, salwar-kameez clad, every second face in the crowd and streets laden with pani puri stalls, tediously made me feel at home, a feeling I didn’t want to have!

However, the picturesque falls with its roaring green waters, made this tryst with nature very special, away from other hiccups. I had thoroughly enjoyed the cave of the winds an innovative tourism gimmick when one pays to get wet in the Niagara. Various other conventional sojourns followed along the trolley ride, circumscribed within two miles of the majestic cascades. And not to forget, the tiresome trip was intermittently treated to some cliché dhaaba food.

As we prepared to leave this land woven out from rocks, forests and nothingness, a few facts about why the falls stand where they are took me off-guard. Man had controlled the gripping land slides to prevent further erosion of these imposing falls. Though carefully preserved as myths and notes of history, it made me wonder how is it that we humans had evolved to control the whims of nature and when is it that we have to give it up?

Walk with me

Walk with me

On the dusty lanes of life I treaded, I met a myriad of wayfarers like me. A few made the journey special; with a few I shared intermittent laughter, while a few parted ways like a murky nostalgia. Along the cross-roads came the harbinger, who I seldom realized was to consort my voyage henceforth.

An uncanny fear and annoying cold-feet and after, here we are on the next cross roads, dovetailing a lifetime ahead from a tacit car ride at sunrise, a slight tear on a petty argument, glib laughter at the steps of the church, a smile over a cup of coffee and a little bundle of colorful post-its doled out on silent mornings by the pillow.

Yet, as we prepare to sail ahead, I wonder why growing-into the imperfectly perfect relationship, is much easier than growing-up in one?

–To the soul who ambles with me, addressing me dotingly as ‘kutti’.

Drenched in New York

A brief five hour demanding and gruelling car ride and later, I was in for a surprise amidst the incessant thunder storms ; Last friday was my graduation day scheduled and conducted in the sea wolves football ground, allowing our crisp blue graduation robes to be sufficiently soaked in the unremitting rains lashing the east coast. The red plastic make-shift rain coats, titled ‘State University of New York at Stony Brook’, were hardly a respite for the frostiness of the weather. It made me wonder if the eeire murky skies and the outdoor ceremony was the last straw to my meagre attachment to the institution.

However, as the unexpectedly gelid rainy day in spring unwound over the graduation spirit and friends and family made the day a special one, I was contended with the twenty second walk down the aisle accompanied by the silly enthusiasm to smile for the camera. It was a satisfied me, who drove away from the infamously memorable and bathed graduation, carrying in my heart the eulogy delivered at the observance ” The students have braved the dark clouds to make the sun shine at the graduation !”

What followed over the weekend was the tuckered out sojourn of NY city and equally humdrum subway rides. Though boasting of being an eighteen month dweller in NY state, I had never done justice to the concrete wonders of the man-made world of NY City. Unable to wean away from the rains, an awashed expedition of the commiserate WTC site, rich wall street, thirty second ride up the elevators to the zenith of the Rock-a-feller center and the gawking walk along the respledent times square, made a safe harbour of the NY City trip.

Continuing the zealous journey, I had the chance to visit a wonder of the world, ‘The statue of liberty’ on Sunday. The cleared skies and warm weather availed my tourist spirit after two doused days. Having clicked a gambit of pictures and treated myself to some oily pipping hot onion rava dosa at ‘Saravana’ on 26th street, I burped placatedly on my way back from the captivatingly callous city to the one that makes me feel at home.

Bundle of joy

Bundle of joy

A week ago I received the three covers, dandily packed and cellophane taped. They carried the redolence of amma’s hands and the warmth of Chennai house. It contained the carefully chosen perky Patiala skirts, two jeans from the very own Lee shop at Pondy Bazaar and not to forget the sealed boxes of home made, ghee emanating sweets, rarified ‘chakka varati’ (jackfruit jam) and my favorite murrukkus from Krishna sweets at Adayar.

This was one among the many bundles I have received from home in the past two years. That moment of turning into a five year old holding those doled out packages is an inexplicable bliss of its own. It may be difficult to comprehend the feeling as one of nostalgia or maudlin or happiness; but all of it in one sheer moment. I gladly undid the parcel, gathering the niceties inside, realizing how unknowingly dormant that part of me was, which ached to be a daughter and pampered.

Being the much hyped “Only Child” of the family of three, I had my share of being coddled and protected; not just by parents but for being youngest in family circles as well. I still recall the night, when eight year old veena akka was scolded for venturing into my space of the bed, spread in the long hall of grandpa’s adobe. I, the cocker-ed five years old, pretended to be asleep and willingly rolled over to her side sauntering all over her, giving her a hard time.

When I had weaned off being the wicked spoilt brat, I was still fussed around as a teenager and loved unremittingly. Somehow, I had till date remained the divu all my life. It made me wonder if I had grown up, without appa and amma by my side and if only I could be their bundle of joy forever. I uncannily remember the elaborate arguments, when amma refused to let me cycle to school alone at thirteen, unless accompanied by a friend who would have to come over to my gate n pick me up.

Though the wiles of her shielding nature were pertinent, it was only after living seven seas away did I know that my contestations of “When will you ever let me be independent?” were not easy for her to grant, since she possessed more gray hair to know that living life is not easy. Ironically, I was brought up to believe in myself and urged to attain independence; but not of the foolhardy nature I was asking for.

It brings to my mind the incident of an equally cosseted cousin, who had made the much unanticipated STD call from his hostel room complaining “Amma, there is no mug in the bathroom. What should I do?” And today standing thirty something he is turning a dad himself! These little episodes make me believe that even the most grown-up adult still lives in the womb, wanting to be the child. And contradicting, there is no such thing as a grown-up; you are always a child to somebody all your life.

I copiously grab the home-made ribbon pakodas, munching down the sweetness of amma’s love wrapped in them, smiling to be the daughter which is the priceless gift of all times!

Graduation musings

May 18th 2007

Graduation musings

It was with great pride that appa had collected my Anna University issued degree certificate, conferring the completion of my Bachelors in Engineering. He had mailed me the scanned copy with utmost humility – “Passed in first class with distinction. I am proud of you.” Those words offered more despondence than delight when I read it. It was last year in May and I was giving my final exams in the second semester of the Masters program; an experience which had taught me how to live life.

I had no pompous ceremonies to mark the BE Degree, which we treat with much facetiousness in the Engineering colleges of Chennai. Engineering, for the most of us, was four years of relentless fun that sans orthodox nerdish attitudes. If at all one decides to quench the thirst for knowledge, it was on the nights before the semester exams, when the lights would burn incessantly to make the score to clear the paper.

The few rashly ambitious, like me, take higher studies to be the best bet to make up for that lost phase of erudition. Like the other counterparts who made it to this country with me, I too made the transition with innumerous blocks, amidst annihilating home-sickness. However, I had gone an extra step behind and made irreparable blunders; landing myself in a well so deep, that for over eight months, I felt I would never surface.

I look back at the shady winter of 2005, when for the first time in my life I had spent a new year’s eve, shut behind lonely doors in disturbing silence. I clearly recall the eerie feeling, which had driven me to attempts of inexplicable euthanasia owing to an emotionally challenged mind. It indeed scares me to realize that I was capable of the extreme ignominy and guilt bundled up to take my life away; but glad I came through it alive, literally and figuratively!

Standing a year away from those dark ages, the imprints of not making a course, so brutally preserved in transcripts, still makes my heart sink and rise at the same time. Sink, because with it, I carried the hopes of a life-time I was ushered upon, blended with the anti-climax to those dreams. Rise, because, even after being smothered with the deepest dirt, I had pulled myself on to break it and come through, to experience this little windowed cube, a challenging code to crack and a contented bank balance.

Behind the aura of amiable life I stand at right now, the forgotten fears still lurk. With the graduation day approaching in a week’s time, I am reluctant to take that step to walk down the aisle to professorate myself as a MS degree holder. It gets me thinking what achievement means to me in the light of not just myself but the world around me. Am I deep inside, still averse to feeling like an achiever to even my nearest ones?

I watched the elaborate observance at NEU last Saturday, when many friends of mine took that bold step and smiled with utmost joy through the graduation robes at their proud parents and pals. The ceremony moved me by all bounds, beyond the resplendence and camera smiles. It was not about the 4.0/4.0 GPA or the 100K job, but the sense of responsibility one has; to be encouraging to oneself about every little step towards a professed goal. It was this responsibility, I was declined to wear.

Yet, I muse to walk at my graduation, amidst the inconspicuous world, which has much more to worry about, than this girl who is humbly confused about her achievements. I go through that file of my academic (pun intended) aggregation, denoted by loose printed papers. I wonder if I was running away from being accredited for the details in the papers and not for what I am beyond them. But then, why am I running away, is something I am still trying to find.

First Time Tagged!

1. Pick out a scar you have, and explain how you got it:
Right eyebrow. Bad hit on the door, while playing lock and key in school corridor during small interval, in 5th std.

2. What is on the walls in your room?
Post-it notes of ever pending errands.

3. What does your phone look like.
Motorola ROKR. White. Miss my huge Nokia first model Fone back home!

4. What music do you listen to?
Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi, English Soft rock, selected Telugu.

5. What is your current desktop picture?
Random, fishes in deep blue sea.

6. What do you want more than anything right now?
A long walk with appa on the terrace.

7. Do you believe in gay marriage?
I have nothing against it!

8. What time were you born?
6:00 AM

9. Are your parents still together?
Yep! Pretty much!

10. What are you listening to?
“Wake me up inside” – Evanescence

12. The last person to make you cry?

13. What is your favourite perfume/cologne?
Escape by CK.

14. What kind of hair/eye colour do you like on the opposite sex?

15. Do you like pain killers? Hmm dig them when the head kills.

16. Are you too shy to ask someone out?

17. Fave pizza topping?
Black Olives

18. If you could eat anything right now, what would itbe? Amma’s 7 cup sweet.

19. Who was the last person you made mad?
Someone very dear.

20. Is anyone in love with you? 🙂

Continuing — I tag Mithra, size, div, Preethi, Hiten

The modest hypocrisy

The modest hypocrisy

I half-distractedly turned the pages of the book I have been reading to sleep for the past one month. I lifted my eyes to see the little ganesha idol, amma had sent me, sitting corpulently on the window porch. Belonging to a class of non-religious, yet non-atheist genre, I simply adore the paunchy god, who seemed to smile at me at that moment. Beside him were the pile of ten rupee notes and one rupee coins, I had bribed him to initiate a gambit of selfish requirements a long while ago.

It reminded me of the reverend Ganesha in my drawing room back home, who I would pray and recite prayers to, only on the tonic exam mornings. The kabir das dohe comes to mind –“dukh mein sumiran, aur sukh mein kuch bhi nahin.” It left the inkling of a god-fearing mind and I soon plunged back into the book, shunning the semi-guilty feeling.

It made me wonder if a little hypocrisy is more imperative than acceptable in life. It may range from how far we express our innate religious instincts to habits we possess or clothes we wear or how far we hold our tongue.

One of my oldest experiences of setting double standards was facing orthodox relatives. At the age of ten, I would obediently listen to amma and aspire to know if pottu should be always worn in front of Uma periammai or I must unquestioningly fall at Murli mama’s feet. Having told how to behave, because of the gender I belong to, rather than for my whims as an individual, I didn’t possess the liberty to defy traditions or unexplainable practices like most of my counterparts of the opposite sex in the family could; including appa. He would never be asked why the ‘punol’ always slept on nails behind doors, but adorned his chest only when elders accompanied us to temple.

When the phase of helpless rebel had weaned off, I had mastered the art of harmless two-facedness. If a pretentious humbleness could mean peace later, it must very well be done. One such instance was the jubilant 25/25 in the unit test in mathematics stuck to the fridge, making a proud daughter to amma; little did I know that Ramu mama’s arrival was to burst my bubble “Girls are very bad in doing maths. How come you seem to have scored well?” No sooner had the uncalled for been uttered, amma pinched me to keep more words to myself. I had the plastered indignant smile accompanied with the words much unlike me –“Well the paper was very easy.” Looking back, picking a feud then, might have spelt ruin of family ties for years to come.

I am further confounded by the cloak of needed duplicity as to how far can one go with it? It is often that you are expected to wear this cloak not just with people who hardly matter outside closest family circle, but sometimes with family or to be family as well. A classic example would be that of “meet the parents” when every pretence carries with it the jeopardy of working against you in future. And ironically, necessary pretence is more than welcome to make that first impression.

Another instance of well delivered profess, is the constant anxiety to be a daughter/mother/wife every economically and emotionally independent woman in this world undergoes. The world around her refuses to comprehend her as a woman but as everything aforementioned. I am sure, I will not be believed if I were to state that she clandestinely feels like a woman above everything else, which she carefully envelops with what her nearest world expects of her. It only varies to what extent she can be unassuming to express it.

It bewilders me to put myself in a state to walk this line between ‘hypocrisy’ and ‘modest hypocrisy’. When does one turn into the other, takes a composed yet mature mindset to decipher. As, I still linger in the aura of life as ‘me’ ahead and not as being an expected ‘she’; I say the line is a cake walk. But when the mind is puzzled to transition from ‘me’ to ‘she’ I am but apprehensive of what waits ahead.