Archive for March, 2012

Be happy with thy better half!

I get the taste of his appreciations regularly in his own inimitable style. I look forward to his morale boosting pieces and very often he seemed to ask me “what next?” and without wasting time, I come out with my next stuff.

Now that he has come out of his single-blessedness, his better half must be doubly happy to be with him in the queen of hill stations.

Good luck to the happy couple.

Certain mental distractions!

When one reads a novel or a short story, one is reminded of some real-life incidents, at times, and the eyes refuse to move further till the mind gives the green signal! But, the mind itself has two sides… the impatient one which says, “Yeah, I got it” and the one which says “not even a distant cousin…”

Anyway, when the train stopped at the next station, the young man who seemed to be restless all along told his wife “Let us get down here” and the wife reluctantly followed him. Another young man who was sitting in the same row with his wife burst into laughter and told her “Your former lover seems to be guilty…He kept you waiting and you believed him till I convinced you.” The wife simply smiled and said, “And your former lover seems to have an eye on you even now… I was eager to hear more about their story but they changed the topic” and it was time for me to get down!

The novel I was reading had no such incidents but somehow, this brief incidents flashed across my mind when I was half-way through that novel!

A noble gesture indeed

India is a land of festivals. Some are common to all states, some restricted to certain states. In Kerala, where we were born and brought up, we celebrated almost all festivals but as far as children were concerned, they looked forward to Vishu, Onam and Deepavali, mainly because they were free from the clutches of homeworks and other school-related botherations in view of the holidays. In our native town, Vishu has an edge over other festivals because of the week-long temple festivals enriched by the presence of four or five elephants which were the center of attraction.

Onam was a ten-day long affair… a bit expensive for the parents as it involved the purchase of new clothes, not only for the family members but also for maid servants and their kids. But, for us (the children) it was a game of flowers of all shapes and colours.

I have only a dim recollection of those good old days and those festivals at regular intervals. But one… just one is still fresh in my memory. On the eve of the 10th day of the Onam festivals we were busy collecting flowers from nearby bushes and temple compounds. The responsibility of collecting flowers was entrusted to me and my younger brother because the elder one had to lend a helping hand to mother who was busy preparing certain delicious sweets and snacks.

Our baskets were full but we were still hunting for those dark red flowers which were a must for the proposed design which would decorate the courtyard. Knowing our predicament, our maid servant instructed her son who was my age to help us. He was too happy to help us that he ran to a palatial house, not far off from our area. We saw him squeezing himself through a narrow gap between the huge gate and what looked like a fence. Thereafter we could not see him. After 10 minutes or so, we saw him running, basket in hand, but chased by an elderly person. “It seems he has stolen those flowers”, my younger brother said. I too had the same doubt. We went home without waiting for the boy, but he followed us and placed the basket full of red flowers on the courtyard and said, “I didn’t have to pluck all these flowers. I was scared when I saw the Thampuran (Master of the house)”. But he chased me to handover a bunch of red flowers and said “It is meant for those boys – I knew they were in need of these red flowers”.

When childhood days were longer!

Even when one brings up one’s children, one’s own childhood days bounce back… the memories of those days, of course! Now-a-days, childhood days are limited to three years. Thereafter, it is LKG, UKG and the more tiresome first standard. As far as my generation was concerned, there were no such things as LKG and UKG and we were as free as mountain winds till we were five years’ old, howsoever tough the parents were. As far as my parents were concerned, they were not very strict, though they had an eye on us even as they were immersed in their day to day works… our father with his official work and our mom busy in the kitchen. Father raised his voice when we went noisy now and then; but our mom used to tell us stories and some jokes after supper when father was immersed in his official work even after the office hours. When we (me and my younger brother) went out of control on certain days, she used to threaten us by saying that we would be sent to school!

My 5th birthday was fast approaching and it coincided with the arrival of our eldest brother who was living with our maternal grandparents. He used to visit us during his school holidays; and he was given a VIP treatment every time.

In those days, school admissions were not a problem at all. All that had to be done was to take the child to the school with an application stating the age and the names of the child and its father or guardian. Our mom told my brother to take me to school in connection with my admission to the first standard and my brother responded with a “Sure, sure let him go to school”.

But, on our way to school he noticed that I was not happy. Luckily, it so happened that he too was not happy. “We are not going to school, OK? We’ll go to the beach instead”, he said. I did not know how we would convince our mom. We were back home by 11’ O Clock.

On seeing me with him, our mom asked, “What happened?” His reply surprised me. “Mom, the head mistress says, “He is only 5 years old and he’ll have to wait till next year”. My mother was convinced and I jumped for joy because my childhood days got extended by one year!

The cup that cheers!

Train journey has always been a pleasure to me; more so, if I am in a reserved compartment and on the window seat.  The many faces of India, both urban and rural appear and disappear in a jiffy, forcing me to sit focused on them lest I missed a quick flowing river or a line of dancing palm trees or the grazing cattle or a way side petty tea shop where a few seats are arranged on the road itself to enable the customers to read the day’s newspaper over a cup of black tea.

But, ever since I settled down in Ooty, a hill station in the Western ghat there was no need for frequent travels. But my occasional trips to my native town were by trains and what made them memorable were the 4 hour journeys from Ooty to Mettupalayam by the ‘toy train’.  Apart from the breath taking views, I also enjoyed the slow movement of the narrow gauge train, especially when it crossed hills and valleys and several tunnels at regular intervals.

One such journey is still fresh in my mind.  Nearby three decades ago, I was on my way to my native town.  I got into the train at 3 pm and the journey was an exciting as ever.  When we were half way through the journey, the train stopped at a place which was not a station but a forest like area.  The driver informed us that the railway track was broken  (a boulder, knocked down by a wild elephant fell on the track), and it would take sometime to set right the track.  It was 5 pm, but it was almost dark by then.  We were also informed that the mechanics have to come from Coonoor, not too far from the place we were held up.

As it was getting darker, those of us who got down to escape from the boredom of being trapped inside the compartment, thought  it unsafe to stand outside in the darkness as we began to hear different noises produced by some wild animals.  Some one told us that he could hear the foot steps of an elephant.

As for  me,  I was carving for a cup of coffee and a fag but there was absolutely no hope for carvings.  Just then, the mechanics arrived, raising the hope for the departure of the train shortly.  Apart from the station master and the mechanics, there were just 3 or 4 of us at the station compound.  To my pleasant surprise, we saw the station master with a few cups of tea, “just sufficient for three or four of you”, he said and we grabbed the cups and drank our tea in a gulp.  Then I rushed to my compartment to pickup the cigarettes and matches from the suit case.  Then, it was heaven on earth!

And when we heard the long whistle of the train and experienced the jerk of the starting train, I said, “Three cheers to S.M!….  Three cheers to mechanics!”  someone sang the then famous movie song, “chikku bukku chikku bukku rayile….”