This is where my rattled brains shoot away at the world.. take a tour

Sunday, September 13, 2015

“Give the Soldiers Hot Food” – From 601 to Kannur

A patch of green, a temple celebration or the sight of a village instantly transports me to the childhood trips to Cherukkunnu (a sleepy village 16kms North of Kannur) during summers. For a city-bred child, the simple life that Cherukunnu had to offer, even for those few days, was heaven. The grand old ‘naalukettu’, the deep wells, the unassuming people, coconut trees, the temple pond, the grocery vendor who identified me as Major Sekharan’s grandson (my grandpa was a mighty well-known figure, mind!) and the evening walks with him that culminated at the temple, the place and the people have retained the simpleton charm always. The village adorned in all possible colours during Vishu festival looked (still do) straight out of a fairy tale.

Days would start with grandpa’s wake-up call for breakfast. The benign disciplinarian that he was, his idea of a perfect family was to sit down as a whole for breakfast and most importantly, for lunch. The age-old custom of men-eat-first-women-eat-later did not apply to him. Everyone crammed together around the square dining table helping each other with dishes that were free from pesticide; fish that my non-fish eater grandpa would specially pick for me, the elaborate evening tea sessions – life seemed perfect for those few days.  Drawing water from the well for a bath and the aromatic coconut oil my aunt used to force on my hair were the highlights of pre-lunch activities. After lunch, I was the privileged one to share the charpoy with grandpa on the vast verandah for an afternoon siesta (with me always oversleeping) hearing the birds chirp and the breeze grace us throughout those sultry noons. Television was not even a necessity those days. Come evening, the proud ex-serviceman would open his quota of the ‘golden liquid’ while my mother prepared scrambled egg or fried tidbits to accompany. It is during these sessions that grandpa would open his vast chest of treasure – stories from his army days. The rise of a foot-soldier to a Major. His stints at various places across India including the wars that he was a part of and the medals he won. One story that I distinctly remember is the one that he would often repeat – of a superior officer who would order “Give The Soldiers Hot Food” after a long day at the battlefield. Somehow, till date, that sentence resonates in my ears every time I see hot food or someone relishing a cup of steaming hot soup. The very sound of those words tasted delicious to the ears.

Cut to 2015! The grand old naalukettu is on its way down. Beside it has risen a 3 storey modern house. I miss the simple pleasures that the grand old house had to offer. Again, being a grownup is no fun and you really do not have the inclination to stop and smell the flowers. Cousins grew up to be fine young career-oriented women, I can see less green and hear more noise. The conviction grew bigger recently when I noticed my two year old niece fervently hopping up and down the staircase like the stairs were going to disappear any moment. The little one probably never saw a multi-storey house with staircases or had so many relatives milling around the house petting her like a princess. Or had a stray cat to pat every day. Or was fed one single meal by ten different people from the same plate. On the last day of her visit, she bawled her heart out with the words “I don’t want to go back to 601. Cherukunnu is my home”.

I sit back and wonder whether she would ever have a relaxed childhood like I did. One full of stories, cousins, grandparents, staircases and wells, old chests filled with dusty books and designer bottles, a grand old mansion which she would fondly recollect later on a piece of writing like this, a life far far away from the hustle and bustle of Bombay, a childhood to remember! I hope and pray that the cat you patted every day, the birds you chirped with and the steps you climbed stay in your heart forever, for one day when you look back, your smile gets wider with such small, yet, big memories.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

When femininity dies, a slave is born

When you are in the people-business, you meet scores of them everyday. People from various walks of life with varied experiences, lifestyles, cultures and faces. They have different stories to tell you and different paths to walk. You remember some faces, you forget more and some are etched at the back of your mind for long after you meet them.

It has been a week today since I met Balaji, an unassuming 29 year old engineer hailing from Chennai, earning a handsome 6-figure salary, now working in Pune. Married for 6 months now, Balaji wants to relocate to Chennai to be with his wife and family. With an earnest smile and a fresh face, he came across as a simpleton. Yet, something about him continues to gnaw at the back of my head.

Our conversation goes:

Me: So Balaji, is your wife working?

Balaji gently keeps the coffee mug down and looks at me with a startled and bewildered expression as though to suggest I asked more than I should have. I remained silent. After a pause he replied.....

Bala:  Ayyayyo illai Gautam. Enakku vanthu naan mattum sambaadicha pothum. Wife ella sambaadiakkarathu vanthu thevai illai. Antha condition-ile thaan kalyaanam pannittom. Aval engineer aavattum, aanaal samaalicha pothum (Translation: Oh no no! For me, it's enough that I earn. I do not want my wife to earn. I married her on that condition. She might be an engineer, but for me, it's enough if she cooks well).

Me: Oh okay!

Bala: Athu mattum illai (not just that), she is pregnant. 4 months now.

Me: Hmmmmm!!

He kept bantering about work but for me, the conversation had already ended. Another one had started in my mind. Throughout my walk back, a faceless figure kept popping up in my head. The figure of a young educated girl who aspired to pursue higher education, land a good job and make a place for herself in the race. In the end, she may have had to give in to parental pressure to get married on the strict condition of she being a housewife and never stepping out of the home to work. To tie her down further, the 22-year old became pregnant within no time after wedding.

What prompts us Indian men of the e-age to harbor such archaic thoughts? That women should be confined to the kitchen? That they are nothing but rice/roti making kid-raising machines to be kept under our financial, mental and physical control? What makes us the men of 21st century to still look down up on women as our slaves, our housemaids with a relation attached? What makes a cross-section among us insecure if our better-half is an earning member? Are we fearing that independence will enable them to fight back when we hurl abuses at them for making bad food? To tie them down early on life, we get them pregnant?

My questions may never be answered for it needs that paradigm shift that we always talk about, it needs a lot of un-learning and re-learning of the rules that we were taught as kids. It would need to start with small things: Like abolishing the culture of boys'/girls' school, the concept of separate seating for boys and girls right from class 1, like not shying away from talking about menstruation or the physiological conditions of women, to gender awareness. A lot.

While sitting in the bus back, I could see a 20-something boy ogling at a woman trying to feed her child under her the cover of her saree. And I realized, we have a long long way to go before we call ourselves the men of 21st century.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

...and they were friends

They were friends... Good friends... They fought, laughed, cried together and shared their agonies with each other.. They were friends who knew each other like the back of their hands. Good friends.

They were friends, who shared stories about girlfriends, about crushes, about love, about dreams, about aspirations and good times, about beer and parties. They were good friends.

They were friends when he moved on and made better friends and a better life and better surroundings and he was left behind. They were good friends.

They were friends when he was settled and grounded. And had a home to call his own and has his life and his time.

They were friends when he made friends with wine and still spoke every night..

They were friends when he made enemies over wine every night...

They were friends when he fought over wine with his friend..

And....The friend just went ahead..

He waited for his friend every night.. for that one call..without realizing how much his friend had moved ahead

His friend had moved knowing he was the sole friend...still... he had to move..

For... They were brothers......... Brothers!