Wings and Chirps

Wanderings of an Itchy Feet

Author: Rekha (Page 1 of 4)

Of Tamarind, Mangoes and Bananas

I read this beautiful piece by Nupur Roopa all along with a flood in my mouth and my heart longing for that jar of tamarind that Ammamma, my grandmother, used to hide inside the kalavara (the storeroom). For now I satisfied my craving by indulging in a sinful spoon of puli-inji, a ginger pickle made with fresh ginger, jaggery and chillies. It is one of the many dishes prepared for Onam.

How My Love Affair with Khatti-Meethi Tamarind Continues…

The kalavara was one of the places at my granny’s home from where most of my adventures began. For some reason all the switchboards at my granny’s place were located above six feet from ground and hence even though there used to be a bulb inside the kalavara, I could never manage to switch it on before sneaking in. Nevertheless, it also helped me a lot since no one ever got to know that I was inside. 

It used to be a dark, cluttered and haunted place with gunny sacks full of naalikeram/thenga (coconuts), fresh ones and dried ones, huge vessels that were only used when we had a sadya (feast) at home. Plus huge ‘urulis‘, the big traditional vessels, used to partially boil the rice with husk to make it parboiled rice. And then the farming tools. Large containers of rice grain. Pots filled with polished rice, parboiled rice and other varieties. Some pots were for manjal (dried turmeric), arecanuts, red chillies, coffee beans and chukku (dried ginger). And then there were sacks full of mangoes of different varieties that were saved for pickles, chutneys, squashes and other stuff. Then there were those large bunches of bananas that used to be hung from the ceiling.

Apart from all of these, there were geckos, spiders of all colours, sizes and shapes, including the deadly tarantulas. Ants. Black ones. Red ones. Small ones. Big ones. And the many varieties from the insect world that I never saw outside of that house. I should have actually taken up entomology. I could have excelled. And sometimes there were also snakes including cobras that used to sneak in from the paambu kaavu (snake shrine) and enter the room through the partially open window. With all of these inside, I still dared to enter this room not just once, but many many times. One day, our household help entered the kalavara and got the shock of her life as I jumped out of nowhere. She almost fainted and I remember begging her to not tell anyone of this secret hiding place of mine. Komalam chechi was so sweet that she agreed with a smile. 

I used to sneak into this space all alone till the little sister started joining me on my adventure trips. Every time she was about to scream out of fear or pain from an insect bite, I had to cover her mouth to avoid disasters or bribe her with a mango or a ball of tamarind that I took out from one of the many bharanis (ceramic jars).

We used to have this huge pulimaram (tamarind tree) close to our main gate. The house was at least 50 feet away from the main gate. The roots of the pulimaram used to be spread across a large area and at some parts of the front yard, the roots were outside of the soil. I used to sit on these for hours daydreaming, drawing or talking to the stars, Achan (Dad) or myself.

Since we used to frequent Ammamma‘s house only during our summer vacations, the only time I have seen this tree full of fruits is during one October when we were there to meet an ailing Muthachan (grandfather), who passed away without even talking to me one last time. I had just turned twelve and losing him on a Diwali day was another big blow to my young mind. And that’s when I started sitting under the Tamarind tree for hours talking to him, writing my journal entries and tending to the seven Ashoka trees that we both had planted together near the compound wall of the house. Muthachan had told me these were pendulum trees. And I had assumed that they will tell us the time in future.

It was during one of the vacations that I had a clash with Amma and was so upset that I got into the kalavara and hid myself. Muthchan was not home and hence Amma and everyone else realized my absence only when lunch was being served. I could hear the commotion outside but my anger kept me from coming out. The moment the kalavara bulb was lit, I got inside one of the empty gunny sacks. I came out only about an hour later when my entire body was swollen because of ants and other insect bites. I am sure I don’t have to describe the amount of beating I received from Amma that day for scaring everyone.

Another episode was during my maternal uncle’s wedding. There were three bunches of banana that were hung inside one of the rooms. They were supposed to be used during the many feasts that were part of the wedding. My people got a shock when they realized on the eleventh hour that there were only one banana left on each of the bunches. The culprits were the only two granddaughters available in the house. Thanks to Acha, we escaped unhurt.

Once I had requested  Ammamma for one more mango after having almost five or six mangoes. That year the mango produce was less and she had hidden some for us. She refused me saying I was overeating and that she would give me more the very next day. ‘No’ was something that triggered the little monster inside me. I knew she had hidden them somewhere inside the kalavara. I sneaked in to get a few mangoes. But it seems Ammamma  was cleverer than me. She had hid the mangoes in a polythene and kept them inside the rice container. I tried everywhere except inside those containers. That was the day that I happened to encounter a cobra that was getting in through the window. As it hissed, I felt a chill run down my spine and my pyjamas getting wet. After a few nanoseconds of eye-to-eye glares, I rushed out. I think that was the last time I got into the kalavara on my own.  Ammamma gave me three mangoes instead of one to make me feel better. And I still remember that I just kept them aside and went on shivering for a while.

Childhood memories are treasures that I value much more than everything else that I have gained in my life. My inter-regional marriage and the subsequent distancing from the family ended my affair with the kalavara, pulimaram and mangoes from our orchards. During partition, the house that Muthachan used to say was mine went to my maternal uncle and family. The last time I went to this place was in November 2013 and I saw the kalavara had made space for a lavish bathroom, and the pulimaram was nowhere to be seen. Three of the pendulum trees remain as a sign of the good times I had spent in that house and of people I loved. No more reason to go there. I am glad that no partition can ever take away the beautiful memories that my heart and mind holds of a place I lovingly called home.

What’s you best memory from your childhood vacations at your grandparents?

Recommended Reading:

Withered Dreams Revisited | Dew Drops

Miss you Muthacha… | Dew Drops

Pathayapura – The Granary | Dew Drops

Myths and Beliefs: Inherited | Dew Drops

Banished for Menstruating – #PeriodPride | Dew Drops

 

#TravelDiaries – Ramgarh/Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

A few days up in the hills…

One of the few privileges of getting married to a man from the hills who loves long drives just like you.

A temple visit where we attended six weddings including that of a district magistrate. Absolutely loved the simple village weddings unlike the lavish city weddings whose sole purpose is to show off wealth.

The Groom

Nothing against those who enjoy celebrating it this way, but I don’t find joy or meaning in wasting money on clothes, accessories or decoration. I would rather love to spend it on feeding the thirsty and hungry souls or on travelling to unknown destinations that help me learn more as a person.

Ghorakhal Temple, a temple of bells

We started visiting Ghorakhal temple ever since our first trip as man and wife to Nainital when the cab driver took us around the place and finally requested us to visit this temple which he believed had great powers. I visit this temple at least once a year. Ringing the countless bells of wishes which have innumerable untold stories in them brings in clarity of thought and peace of mind.

 

We make it a point to rush to the hills whenever possible because the chaotic city life is dreadful. The noise, the traffic, the dust and smog, the rat race…it’s all so traumatic most of the time.

My one big dream is to build a tiny nest somewhere up in the hills and spend the rest of our lives waking up to the melodious birdsong, walking hand in hand soaking in the beauty of the mountains and the people.

It’s a myth that money can buy you everything. Money can only help provide for your needs. For inner peace and happinness, one must travel, engage and reflect. To the man who lived inside this hut, it may mean nothing. But to someone like me who spends thousands to enjoy the beauty of his surroundings, he seems like the richest man in the world. That’s why they say, to each his/her own.

In villages, where people live closer to nature, life is simple yet fulfilling. I’m sure they have their own challenges. But there’s no rush yet everything is so well-disciplined.

The woman of the house doing Tulsi Pooja as part of her daily rituals.

Running away from the city, we ran up to a warm and cozy little place named Ramgarh, 350 kilometers from Delhi and just 35 kilometers from Bhimtal.

Somwhere close to Mukteshwar. Some of the roads make you feel that there’s nothing ahead. That it’s the end of the road. The sharp twists and turns of the roads on the hills are scary yet beautiful.

Bulbuls, plum-headed parakeets, munia, thrushes, sparrows, swallows, flycatchers, treepies and many more singing the morning raga. Walking down to the market place from the KMVN (Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam) Tourist Rest House with monkeys jumping all around.

And the flowers! Such deep, dark, bright hues of all colours possible and the most challenging geometric patterns you get to see ever.

The early morning chai at Pandeyji’s tea stall with the snow-capped Himalayas reflecting the sun rays is just the best feeling ever.

 

And then with the new found energy and warm hands you point and shoot the Great Indian Himalayas that peep from behind the hills. Breathtaking this view was.

Trust me, no camera has the ability to capture what the human eye, heart and mind capture together. Goosebumps it gives me when I think of the supreme power that has engineered this marvel that is our body and everything outside of it.

No man-made wonder has the magnificence or mastery of Mother Nature’s creativity. Her palette has a magical combination of various hues that no artist can ever capture on canvas or camera.

It’s a different painting from every angle. A different landscape. Pictures do speak a thousand words but what the naked eye captures speaks countless words and emotions, all at once.

Have you ever had Maggi on the hills? We missed it this time. But that Maggi cooked in the Himalayan waters tastes heavenly. I wish I could go back just for having that one bowl of Maggi sitting on the roadside and soaking in all the beauty around.

Maggi Point

Neverthless, we managed Momos and Thukpa. Fun! Absolute fun.

 

Nest – A Place You Call Home

Do deewane shahar mein
Do deewane shahar mein
Raat mein ya dopahar mein
Aab-o-daana-dhoondhte hain
Ek aashiyana dhoondhte hain
Do deewane…

As Bhupinder and Runa Laila sang this song on the radio for the nth time this morning my heartbeats multiplied to the tune of n. It’s been playing in my heart and mind ever since I was a child and witnessed my parents hunting for the many houses that we called home for the little time we stayed in them. The lyrics paint that picture perfect house in my mind.

On our way to the school every morning and back in the evening, our school bus had to cross river Yamuna. She used to be a different person in those days. She was full of energy and brimming with water. The water with black silt underneath used to flow along graciously like Rapunzel’s long locks.

Death is inevitable and my young mind knew it very well. Funeral pyres that littered the banks of Yamuna, the twin sister of Yama (the Lord of Death), and the acrid curls of smoke that rose from melting flesh and charring bones was a regular sight. Another sight was that of people who would throng the place to throw the ashes back into the water. The half burnt corpses lay on the banks and sometimes floated on the river. A feast for crows and the then abundant species of vultures that inhabited the banks. So much for a favourable rebirth.

I do remember the army of worshippers that stood up to their waist in the river on chilly winter mornings, chanting their sacred verses and then immersing themselves in the holy yet utterly filthy water. It used to be crowded during the Shiv Kanvarias season and Chhat Puja. Women in bright coloured sarees with even brighter coloured sindoor. It ranged from maroon, red, orange and even fluorescent green. I guess these bright colours were not just worn to celebrate the festival but to hide the dull, sleepy and hungry faces. All of them with the cane baskets full of fruits and other goodies. I would have loved to see their counter parts joining them and standing hand in hand, making this the most beautiful depiction of love, care and equality.

It was also the dwelling of elephant mahouts whose elephants were hired for the annual festival at the Uttara Guruvayoorappan Temple. The barely dressed children from the JJ Basti, the cluster of slum dwellers, would jump into the water as we cheered for them from the moving bus. A reciprocal waving of hands and a few words that never reached us were enough to keep us motivated to cheer more.

This was the story around one bank of the river.

My story, the one I kept painting and improving in my mind, was more about the other bank.

Acres of lush green farms on the government land on the river bed with a few thatched roof huts and some mango and banyan trees. This was a feast for my hungry eyes. There was this one hut closer to the river. It had a huge mango tree outside. There was a swing hung on it. A tyre swing on which kids could be seen swinging. One or two cows, a few goats and a brood of hens. A little away was this lady. The mother of the house. Sometimes she could be seen making ‘uplas’ or dung cakes. At other times she could be seen spreading the washed laundry. Some other times she would be making chappatis on her ‘chulha’, the traditional mud stove. Her man could be seen toiling in their nearby land.

To me, they were a perfect family. And that leaking hut was a perfect home. Imperfectly perfect! I wasn’t bothered about the security issues or the minimal space or the restricted living. The man. He made that picture complete. He was easily approachable. At times he could be seen running after the kids with a stick in his hand. It didn’t matter. What mattered was that he was there. Right there. He completed the picture. The missing link in my own family picture. And at that time I used to imagine all those letters from Riyadh being thrown high up into the sky. As they fell back slowly on to the ground they transformed into a figure. That missing figure. The one that would complete my family portrait. My Dad.

I had imagined all of us running hand in hand around the hut singing this beautiful melody from one of my most favourite movies, Saath Saath.

Ye Tera Ghar Ye Mera Ghar
Kisi Ko Dekhna Ho Gar
To Pehle Aake Maang Le
Meri Nazar Teri Nazar
Ye Tera Ghar Ye Mera Ghar
Ye Ghar Bahut Haseen Hai …

Home. Nest. Veedu. Ghar. Aashiyaana. Aabodaana. Ghonsla. Abode.

Words that I love. Words that I live by. Words that make me feel alive. Words that rejuvenate me. Words that resonate within me. Home is where the heart is. Home is the people in it. Home is the memories it creates. Home is nostalgia. Home is the pictures that one’s mind captures with bare eyes.  Home is the bonding that it represents. Home is the stories are written together. Home is where you are yourself. No boundaries. No restrictions. No inhibitions. We may grow in age, we may move places and we may forget about it totally. But deep inside, the memories, those pictures are deeply engraved within each of us. The ones of the picture perfect home that you long for even after ages.

What are your fondest memories of the place you still call ‘home’?

#QuoteCafe #2 – The Kiss (3 pictures)

The happiness of life is made up of minute fractions – the little, soon forgotten charities of a kiss or a smile, a kind look or heartfelt compliment. ― Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“The sunlight claps the earth, and the moonbeams kiss the sea: what are all these kissings worth, if thou kiss not me?”
― Percy Bysshe Shelley

“What would you do if I kissed you right now?”
I stared at his beautiful face and his beautiful mouth and I wanted nothing more than to taste it. “I would kiss you back.”
Michelle Hodkin, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous. ― Ingrid Bergman

“We kiss all the time.” I clear my throat, then add, “We just…do it in private.”
“A smug expression crosses his face. “I don’t buy it for a second, ’cause if you were my girlfriend and a stud like me was livin’ in your house, I’d kiss you in front of the guy every chance I got as a reminder.”
“A reminder of w-w-what?”
“That you were mine.”
― Simone Elkeles, Rules of Attraction

“Laugh, even when you feel too sick or too worn out or tired.
Smile, even when you’re trying not to cry and the tears are blurring your vision.
Sing, even when people stare at you and tell you your voice is crappy.
Trust, even when your heart begs you not to.
Twirl, even when your mind makes no sense of what you see.
Frolick, even when you are made fun of. Kiss, even when others are watching. Sleep, even when you’re afraid of what the dreams might bring.
Run, even when it feels like you can’t run any more.
And, always, remember, even when the memories pinch your heart. Because the pain of all your experience is what makes you the person you are now. And without your experience—you are an empty page, a blank notebook, a missing lyric. What makes you brave is your willingness to live through your terrible life and hold your head up high the next day. So don’t live life in fear. Because you are stronger now, after all the crap has happened, than you ever were back before it started.”
― Alysha Speer

* Pictures clicked at Qutub Minar, Delhi premises with #Nikon #P900.

It’s a Girl!

The three deadliest words in the world…they say. To me, these are the most beautiful words that I heard twice in my life.

The three deadliest words in the world, ‘It’s a Girl.’

The recent murder of Pune Techie, Rasila Raju, has shocked me beyond words. She was with an IT giant that most of the people of my generation respected when it came to employee welfare. I hear that this is also history now. Sad.

I am a woman. A girl who grew up in the National Capital Territory. A girl who has spent a significant part of her life in her hometown in Kerala as a school going girl during summer vacations. A woman who has travelled to some of the major cities (including Metros) of this country as part of her corporate job requirement. And I regret the fact that I never felt safe in any of these places.

At home, there were men (read close relatives) who harassed and molested an eleven-year-old and there were women (read mothers) who refused to accept that they did so, let alone pacify the child for what he/she experienced. On the road, there were boys and men of all age group who left no chance of passing crude and vulgar remarks, pressing their bodies against ours, groping and molesting. The newspapers were always full of stories of child abuse and rapes. Bollywood movies that almost always showcased stalking, domestic violence, molestation and rape of women. Even in women-centric movies, it was almost always necessary for the lead to go through such episodes before she became stronger and achieved her dreams.

Why? Why can’t we as parents protect our children from people at home? Why can’t we stand up for the life that we are responsible for? Why do we always put family relations first and children last? Why can’t we teach our boys to respect a girl for who she is, another human being? Why can’t we stop waiting for the last minute? Why can’t we as a society stand up for someone getting harassed in the middle of the road, or on a bus or in a conference room?

No. We won’t. We will never. Because we are a bunch of shameless armchair activists. Even when we witness any such incident, instead of catching the abusers, we will still be whispering amongst ourselves as to how it must be the girl’s fault, it must be her clothes, it must be the time and it must be the place. I have myself been the subject of criticism many a times because I intervened. Be it on a bus, be it on the road or at a function. “Why do you have to react?”, “Why do you need to get into it?”, “It’s not happening to you.” These are some of what is told to me.

After all these years and after Nirbhaya, Soumya, Jisha, Swathi and hundreds and thousands like them, we have still done nothing to keep these rapists at bay. In fact, the slow pace of these cases has just increased their fearlessness.

We are ready to protest as a united force for protecting a certain traditional ritual but we don’t find crime against women and children important enough to stand up as a nation.

I don’t blame men. I blame women. Yes. Women who are the first to blame the victim on the basis of her dressing, choice of career, choice of staying alone, choice of being single, choice of the time of the day, choice of the place. We leave no leaf unturned to make her life hell. So much that we almost often drag them to the edge of committing suicide.

If you haven’t yet, you must read this interview of former CBI Director R.K. Raghavan, presently with the Tata Consultancy Services as Corporate Security adviser.

We cannot root out crime, only reduce its intensity, says Raghavan

I don’t blame the law and order alone. I blame everyone. I blame everyone including myself. Why haven’t we found this issue important enough to protest as a society? Why are our traditional rituals given much more importance than a living human being? Why are these few monsters able to repeat such offences again and again? Why are we giving birth to more and more of them through our silence and apathy?

As I was thinking of this, I had an epiphany. A brilliant one!

Allow gender determination tests across the country. Also, legalise female foeticide. That’ll put an end to all this crap. 

What do you say?

I am serious. We must fight for this. It will help control most of the crimes. You must have heard of that Hindi phrase, Na rahega baans na bajegi baansuri which vaguely means ‘No root, No fruit’. Every problem must be tackled at source. Jad se mita do. No girl. No women. No children. No molesting. No rape. No blame. Jhamela hi khatam! Neither to the government nor to the law and order officials nor to anyone else. Think over it. It’s a fool proof proposal.

If we cannot protect our daughters (and sons) we should rather not give them birth at all. I wish I hadn’t. My heart aches at the mere thought of letting my children live in this rot. And I know that as women this is all that they can expect in pretty much any part of the world. Sigh!

What an idea to share on an auspicious day like Basant Panchami when we worship and pray Goddess Sarawati (read a woman), the goddess of learning, wisdom, knowledge, fine arts, refinement, science and technology, to attain enlightenment through knowledge and to rid ourselves of lethargy, sluggishness and ignorance. The one who educates. A big bunch of moral hypocrites we are!

End Gendercide Manifesto (Picture Courtesy Pinterest)

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