October Happenings

October is a month of transition; preparatory of no season, pertaining to no weather, just hangs in there to let go off the monsoons or fall, giving way to winter. And it may be for giving the month a reason to exist, that it homes festivities that are celebrated around the globe. Back home, it is the fanfare of navratri/dusherra/durga pooja. As a child I would look forward to those delicious sundals, dress up for kolattam and admire the niceties of golu.

This year too I was part of the fête, but of a mixed nature. My Sunday had begun with some experiments at making the sweet kesari. It was followed by efforts to replicate the customs for appeasing the goddess of knowledge saraswati. Her blessings were perfunctorily obtained by engraving all the known alphabets on a plate of raw rice with my finger tip. Like a novice, I had even tried out the few new tamil letters that I have picked up.

Contrastingly, the day had unwound over a finger chips lunch and ended with a huge cotton candy. We had decided to indulge in the do of Halloween, the navaratri counterpart of the west. And unlike the festival back home, Halloween is all about eerie awakenings, costume parties and making everything scary a happy ending. To enjoy the celebrations at its best, we headed to the town of Salem, following our little rendezvous with vijayadasami.

Salem is known for its association with the sixteenth century witchcraft trials, where the magic of broom stick dames and haunted house sagas come alive. The five blocks in the center of the town, were buzzing like a fair and the sunny crisp weather made it all the more fun. Having behaved like characteristic tourists, clicking snaps and posing for many, we had interlarded to taking the tour of the many little attractions the town harbored.

It began with the dark dungeons of the ‘Frankenstein’s laboratory’, where the monsters in black robes keep popping their devil heads through the winding horror movie styled alley and I had screamed and screeched myself silly. The next sojourn was the museums which told the history of the town and the witchcrafts through wax models. We also got to experience the ‘casting of spells’ first hand through a witching hour gimmick, put up by the practicing witches of the town.

Apart from these ghostly partaking, what I loved the most was the cobble stoned streets, lined with vividly decorated shops. They housed many ‘charming’ ingredients, witch hoods, pebbles, perfumes of unknown flavors, dry flowers, moonlit wall hangings, carved mirrors, mmystery chocolates and everything of a magical world. For many a moment it was like reliving wizard of Oz or incepts from Hogwarts.

I picked up a few souvenirs and made up my mind to come dressed the next year to blend into this little world away from mundane life. Before we knew, it was dusk and time to leave. It was with contended hearts and a fun day to remember we headed to the muggle world.

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Wedding Bells

Wedding Bells

It was through dusty black and white photographs, that amma had introduced her best friends from college to me. She had quoted composed yet with a little tinge of sadness that, she had lost touch over time and she wondered where her friends were married to. And it was then, I had made up my mind to keep in touch with my pals no matter what and even made promises over the infamous ‘spit hand shake’ that I wouldn’t miss their wedding wherever I was.

And when life has it otherwise, it is always combined with inconvincible guilt and pacifying counter affirmations. What comes to my mind is the little sunlit room, accommodating three girls, with their heads bent over the unfathomable ‘probability and queuing theories’. P, M and I were making last minute attempts to clear a paper, which was already termed difficult to fail, considering that scores could fall below 0. We had made the experience less intimidating, by surmising half understood work, discussing gossip and munching finger chips.

We had come a long way since then, to four wonderful years of college life. P and M were always there to listen to me crib about everything under the sun, tolerate my endless blabbering, forgive me for everything silly, organize surprise birthday parties and laugh and share. We had molded good from bad days and made silent promises to not forget, yet forgo.

And here we are two years away from, enthu movie days, beach talks, yapping over phone, lunch hours, ispahani center sojourns, night outs, group studies, (un)surprised birthday parties; all left behind to embrace new boundaries and new lives, woven over best moments and feelings permanent.

And like an answer to all those unsurprised moments of birthday cakes, here we are, as a surprise to many including ourselves, all getting married within the next eight months. In a week’s time is M’s wedding and I am 26 hours away, unable to attend it. Yet, nothing can stop me from being excited and equally happy, for this girl who had stood by me at all times and loves me for me.

On my last visit to India, the three of us had made that small talk, over the easy rounds of food. And, I was subtly intrigued how I had transformed to being ‘DD’ for those few hours I was with them. It was old times, blended in everything new. It made me wonder when we would do this, many years from now; table talking, pulling legs, scape-goating and smiling.

And somehow just like that, it was lucid. The only factor other than ‘change’ which is constant in our lives is friendship; and when you have friends who can make that change, the friendship will always be a constant one.

Post Dedicated to my best friends – Preethi and Manju. Wishing Manju the best wedding ever.

A toast to great memories.

The family album

The family album

God gave us relatives. Thank God! We can choose our friends

It is the most cynical quip to forget family feuds and the most unfortunate during good times. Life sees many a circumstance to take the wisecrack seriously and many a times its existence is forgotten in happy moments and age of innocence.

As I look back almost twenty years, I was the happy four year old who had enjoyed every norm of a joint family; traversed the temple next door with grandpa, watched thathi say her morning prayers, waited for summer vacations to be able to make that cousins union, looked forward to be cosseted by aunts and uncles when amma scolds me – had been everything in the relationships I no longer adhere to and may be don’t belong to.

I sometimes wonder what happens to us as we grow; grow to be independent, grow to be judgmental of our lives and others, grow up beyond ourselves to not understand the happiness when we were four. And slowly, the same aunt and uncle who had every authority to pamper you would no longer interfere in your life. The cousin, who had been your best playmate, is the one you rarely talk to, you would prefer the company of your friends any day. And before you knew, the family tree had grown, strewn over the world map, divergent in thoughts and quests to make a life; had drifted to create hiatuses irreparable.

I am often confronted with requests to make a phone call to that distant cousin living in the same city as me, or the same country, to say a mere unreasoned ‘hello’. My reason to flee these uncomfortable gestures is my sheer ineptness to pursue mundane conversations about nothing with someone, I don’t relate to. I can no longer be the optimistic four year old, who would always think that cousins made best playmates.

At moments like these I often wonder when it had all gone haywire. And would it ever be the four year old bliss again? As I turn pages of the family album, with photographs that preserved the memories, I so wished to understand now; when life was beyond selfishness, beyond “having a social life”, beyond making decisions, beyond being rebellious. And there it was the whole family picture, together a million (read as: twenty) years ago, a several cousins I have not seen in years and a numerous others I have not spoken for ages, not due to lack of time or resource, but intention.

We had all in circumstance and pace of life, forgotten what it had been like to be fed by patti, to have slept in the lined up bedspreads, climbed the guava trees and fought for the most red fruit, swung the atukatil so hard like it was the end of life. We had in course of time, forgotten to share, to love, to care and live together.

They say “we are our relationships”; but then without these relationships, who are we?

It’s all about the city

It’s all about the city

Last weekend I had been to NYC for the umpteenth time in two years. And like every trip, I am engulfed by the urge to move there and like every other time, I don’t let it get past my hometown-ish love for the bean town *. It is one of those most comprehensible feelings we share as an urbane human being, to never leave ones abode and the world around it.

The city that never sleeps has a passion for crowd, a swirl of glamour, a restaurant at every corner and a shelter for the many homeless. Amidst it outrageous resplendence and the tendency to never slow you down, can be the most chronic allure that any ardent new-Yorker can experience. And it is this tempo of life and the callousness that comes with it, which drives me away from living there.

I have, over the past many years, been a dweller of many cities and fallen in love with a handful. And yet like a hurt teenager, I have moved on to make the next city of appa’s transfer my new love. Amidst these transitions of six schools in thirteen years, I couldn’t, but wonder what makes a city more affable than the other?

On one hand are cities like Hyderabad, which in its distinct tastes of culture, harmlessly harassed ‘hindi’, ever crowded Charminar markets and a spicy unconventional cuisine; easily turned into my first love. However, seven years away, I am bound to be lost in the zillion changes a fast growing city like her is metamorphosing into.

On an uncanny contrast is the unfathomable stagnation of cities like Trivandrum, which still lives in the eighties. On my last visit to TVM, a month ago, I felt an ineffable guilt combined with joy to be in my home town and to see her senile and pastoral like I had always known her. Even the pace of life and the modes of them have remained untouched to distraction. And in her retiring age she will always remain beautiful to me.

And there are cities like ‘singara chennai’, so apt to be disliked, but can win you over in no time; a city still cultural with every aspect of a sixteenth century tradition, lined by the splendid marina and unblessed with heat and untimely monsoons; making her an aged beauty of changing times and everything old.

A class apart is addictive cities like Bombay, which amidst the grime and clamor makes an impression so bold that it is unquestionable. And going by is the city’s womb to hold its variegated population, a pedestal slum, lifeline metros and BEST buses; all contrasting the commendable yet magical fairy tales of bollywood and charming capitol.

Be it my favorite *Boston, or the sultry Madras or the million other cities I have not lived to be fervent about, there is always a warmth in the city’s alienisms and sense of belonging to its novelty. For the city is always open and over the years, she nurtures and grows with you. And when its time to move, it’s like leaving an old companion for a new one, who had always been your best listener who was generous enough to let you take her for a walk or a ride when you please. For the city is always permanent, it is we her cohorts who change.