Holding back

Holding back

There is nothing like an enrapturing book, on a warm Sunday night; the world is asleep and you are melted into an era so gruesome yet fearless, adhering to the lineage you come from or may be going into or never wanting to be in it. But, end of the beautifully narrated story in ‘The house of blue mangoes’ that preserved the wrath of caste-ism, I was but left with a lot of questions, for which I didn’t want to seek an answer.

I have never understood the fear, displeasure and nonchalant contempt associated with fellow beings. I have never tried to understand the decree which drives one to prejudice in the safe name of caste. I have further refused to realize the repercussions of breaking this very barricade that has been preserved so rigidly in our mindsets carrying it subconsciously and practicing them unknowingly in who we are and where we come from.

One of my first encounters at the factor of caste was at the temple of my family deity. Amidst the goddess’s clout and the Brahmin’s prowess to please her, the little sanctum was the prerogative of the Brahmins alone and the others had to be satisfied with watching the goddess at a safe distance on the outside. As a child, I never understood why we were given the special privilege to look at the Devi at such closeness, that you could almost feel the heat of the lamps dancing to the rhythm of the Brahmin’s enunciation of the potent slokams. He would amidst his rigmarole of ceremonies, keep a watchful eye to ensure no one from the unprivileged class made his way to the sanctum. However, over the years, I had decided not to question such faiths or practices owing to my sheer bafflement at the pace of life and ways of life that dwelled in regions like here.

As I grew out of the age of chaste, when one wishes to do everything that is a heady taboo, I had indulged myself in trying to taste the very disapproving in the Iyer family – non-veg. And because of one day of folly, amma to date takes my promises over phone that I have not touched chicken since and hence. Instances like these make me wonder if, faiths and practices were meant to make one live a life of blissful ignorance and convenience; even if they were not, I believe it has evolved to take that place.

I am not going to vehemently state the need to shun the beliefs one’s family or bearers have carried for a long time and banter the need to let go. I must confess, I am not a staunch subscriber to these thoughts either. How else can I explain my peculiar tastes to a Brahmin made vatha kozhambu and the need to hog curd rice with kadu maanga? How else do I owe my urge to seek education and independence above retiring to a child-bearer and safely said home-maker? How else may I cash on the secret feeling of relief to belong to an educated and respected class of Brahmin which abates the necessary rebel and feminist in me?

Life always seems to come to a full circle, or go in one. And when one is able to look beyond the bigger picture, living the life that elders disdain is a bitter-sweet one. My first headstrong encounter of skirmish was ‘meet-the-parents’. While the two of us involved cared less about our descent, bringing the parents together was a lot of hard work; honestly harder than the 12th std Board exams. And before we had come into terms with understanding the ramification of bringing cultures, practices and beliefs circumscribed in unyielding lines, life had turned upside down and inside out, until the only way to escape them was to let them be and us to be us.

It ruefully made me realize that even when one has grown above scorned values and misconstrued faiths, the urge to hold on remains deep down. It is something we are subconsciously told and brought up on. The tendency to wrath, speak aloud, eat meat, address elders, to dare, to survive, to learn; every little thing we are made up of, is influential and though most of us (including me) would conveniently never agree to coast these dispositions to the caste we come from, it will take a long time for these imbibed ingredients to erase from our sullied minds carefully honed for generations.

It makes me wonder when it will be that we humans would actually belong to the species we rightfully belong to. And in a million years we will. Life always comes a full circle.

West Coast Travelogue

West Coast Travelogue

It is summer and no better time of the year is this fruitful for making those scale of sojourns to various spots in this country; some truly worth the hype and others a mere replica of places of fun. I, carrying the zeal to mark my foot-prints as far as I can, as long as I am here, took me to the five days of beguilement to lands six hours away from Boston.

Enthused amidst the sore feet, ill fitted seats of delta, we were welcomed by the captivating resplendence of Las Vegas. This city carved out of a measly desert truly seemed to hold the saying right – “Money is always there. It is the pockets that change.” The unrest due to the one hour wait for check-in baggage was soon melted away on the night-out visit to few of the many lavish Casinos that adorn Vegas.

Yet, as it is about the vagaries of even the most planned trips, the heat of this land, with temperatures hovering around forty degrees Celsius made me experience Chennai all over again in its wildest summers. Hitherto, the materialistic magic of Vegas lingered on and we marched our way to the fantasy land of casinos in the burning sun. The way the vision of romantic places around the world (Paris, Rome, NY, Venice and many more) were captured in the architectural themes of the Casinos in the Strip Street was indeed an gawking experience.

How can Vegas be complete without gambling? The safe-players like me stuck to slot machines only to lose the inconspicuous sum I threw into them. An exorbitant lunch buffets; rounds of black jack and poker for the strong hearted; exhaustive casino hopping; fun road shows and fountain dances and later we had called it a day to retire early.

The much anticipated and advertised Sky Walk on the Grand Canyon was the plan of day two. The mini-van seating eight gave way to a two hour road trip of many monkeyshines and relentless laughter owing to Ambi’s spontaneity and Mithra’s unremitting efforts to get better with each new kadi. However the kaccha roads or the lack of them, leading to the sky walk, made the last hour of the journey a dusty and bumpy ride.

The heat had no mercy and this time we bore the brunt of soaring forty eight to brave not just the anvil of the sun but the dizzy walk on glass top, built right above 4000 feet of Grand Canyon. It was indeed a different experience to feel the picturesque Canyon in its majestic height; but the half constructed area around the Sky Walk and path leading to it did cut a sorry figure. It simply boiled down to my belief of USA’s business strategy to turn every habitual location to a place that mints money. Nevertheless, barring the heat, Grand Canyon was truly one of the wonders.

Day 3 began on a different note with comfortable temperatures and one hour flight from the LV to Los Angeles. We headed early to the Universal studios and moved on from one show to next, one ride to the next, dilly dallying our way through the winding infinite file of tourists like us. With the amiable sunny weather, our day unwound over 4D theatre shows, drama, visit to the set of all those awed movies like Jurassic Park and some imperative pett pooja in a timely fashion. I had particularly loved the shows of Shrek and Water World and the exhilarating ride of Mummy. Nevertheless, stealing the show was the house of terrors when the horror heroes came to life and made chicken hearts like me yell away! Many standard pictures taking and later it was time to catch that pending beauty sleep.

Saturday was a relaxed one and considering the trip was almost over, the inertia to return hung in each of us. Apart from the much talked of star walk and clay imprints of hands and feet of stars like Brad Pit, Hollywood didn’t seem as magical as portrayed. Nonetheless, the promenade in Santa Monica with good restaurants and classy shops was a pleasant one. What followed was the ever awaited swim in the beach and the shenanigans that go with it as a bunch of pals.

Being a first time for all of us, we had decided to indulge in some Persian food combined with Belly Dancers for the dinner at the end of the jaunt. The treats were done, expenses split, fun had; the voyage had come to an end. It was with heavy hearts that we returned the next day, half minded to work.

I, owing to some bad service, had to take the longest flight back home, traversing almost 12 hours with wait times included. The junket had left an impression on each of us, something I had felt a long while ago during school excursions. As I jet lagged and cribbed being back, I truly felt rejuvenated after the sought after break and the wonderful company of friends.