Wings and Chirps

Wanderings of an Itchy Feet

Category: Reflections

A Whiff of Nostalgia

This morning I woke up to this beautiful blue sky decorated with cute patches of crispy white cotton wool. It felt like a drop of dew after months of drought. You ought to experience the worst to be able to appreciate the good. After experiencing infinite number of days of multiple layers of soot and unimaginable levels of air pollution, today looks good. A delightful, cheery and shiny morning with occasional eclipses as the bright orange ball of fire hides behind the visibly bigger cotton patches.

I woke up as usual and sipped my glass of hot water that the loving husband lovingly brought me. He then barged into the washroom for a quick bath before leaving for work. I thanked the inventor of mixer grinder as I ground the leftover saag from last night and kneaded it with the flour for the paranthas. Boiled a few potatoes and made the masaledaar stuffing too. The man who is a foodie and enjoys every bite was delighted. First star of the day, I dreamt.

Task number 2. Switched on all the lights and tried to wake up the girls singing ‘Darling aankhon se aankhein chaar karne do’ in my melodious voice as they curled once again into the cozy razaiis. Stop it, Mamma. 5 minutes more!” Couldn’t blame them but the strict mommy sprung into action and tickled them out of the bed and pushed them into their respective bathrooms. Fed them and packed them off to school with a “I’ll miss you.”

Dropped in at Mom’s place for exactly 7 minutes and rushed back home at the speed of light to escape the house-help’s wrath for making her wait for precisely 3 minutes.

Once she is home, I am like that witch on the broom who runs from here to there at super speed clearing up the mess that we jointly created throughout the previous day and the Mahabharata Yudhha that had taken place just that morning . I hate winters for the extra workload of folding the jumbo razaiis, the jackets, the sweaters, the blazers that have to be hung all around the house. Plus the number of times one has to turn the washed laundry to get it all dried.

I was folding the washed laundry when I rushed to the househelp who was cleaning the utensils. A whiff of air brought in an old yet unforgotten scent from yesteryear. That’s when the mind started playing this ad.

I was confused as to why me of all the people on earth. And why 555? This was one of the few things I disliked from what our generation had to bear with. Such sick colour, texture and odour.

Kiran, yeh 555 jaisi smell kahaan se aa rahi hai?” 

“Pata nahi Didi. Mujhe bhi lag raha hai.”

Actually this has been going on since past 3-4 days and today I studied the pattern. It was only happening every time Kiran was washing utensils. I made a few calculations in my mind and drew up a picture.

“Pakka! Bartan ki tray ke pass aaloo sadd raha hoga.”

“Par Didi aap to har do din mein tray saaf karati ho.”

“Kahin dish washing gel ki smell toh nahi?”

“Naa…pata nahi kya hai. Ho sakta hai bagal waale ghar se ho.”

This is when the detective in me caught the fumes coming out of the geyser plug point. It was melting. A bright and sunny morning with 200 ka fatka early in the morning. Glad that nothing major happened. Just thought of sharing so you check your plug points well in time.

While you’re off to check your connections. I’ll savour this parantha. Now you know the reason for my health…right??? 😀

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

 

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)

The Crossing

The door bell rang just when I was about to step out. It was the courier guy. Scribbled my name in running script on the device and then on the list that he was carrying. The man’s credit card statement.

Locked the metal latch and rushed down the stairs. I was late by five minutes.

Underneath the banyan tree adjacent to the Hanuman temple, a rickshaw-puller was enjoying his afternoon siesta. On any other day I would have let him enjoy his nap, but not today. The girl will fire me from mommy-hood. Woke him up and he was more than happy to give me a ride.

Red light at the crossing. The incessant honking just puts me off and the best way I deal with it is by getting zoned out. While the ears were on ‘off’ mode, the eyes observed more sharply.

Sitting on the pavement was this bearded man in his early forties. Dressed in saffron. Fake rudrakshas around his neck. A wooden kamandal (water pot), a staff (a long walking stick) and a potli (cloth bundle) lay beside him. He was adjusting the sandalwood pulp on his forehead using a pocket mirror. The beard sweeping his hairy chest ran down till his potbelly. I wondered what would be the amount that leaves a healthy man with no choice but to bare his body in this cold winter afternoon.

She ran past the rickshaw. In a hurry. Her woollen shawl was trying to catch up to her feet while her torn handbag was sliding down her shoulders. Running for life? I thought. But that smile… The incomplete smile on her face meant something else. She was running non-stop. Not even bothered about the running traffic or the abuses hurled at her by the riders. The light turned green. As we crossed the roads I noticed that she had stopped running. The Metro Feeder bus on the bus stand on the opposite road had left by then. For some reason I looked back again at her. This time our eyes met and we smiled at each other.

A school bus overtook us from the right. Just before it left out of sight I saw her. A cute little girl with two ponytails waving at me. I waved back. Her twinkling eyes and toothless smile. Precious! May they stay forever. I prayed silently.

The school gate approached. As I kept the tenner and the five rupee coin on the palm of the rickshaw guy, he bowed and smiled. It was his rightful money. He had earned it. But grateful he was. Just as I was. For the day. For the ride. For the people. For the experiences. For the lessons.

So much in just ten minutes. And then I realized it. It was the ability to turn off what was not necessary, what was not worth my time, what was negatively impacting me. The honking.

Thankfully the daughter emerged only after two minutes. Her smile as she spotted me at the gate was another precious moment to add to the balance sheet of this life.

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