my name is P Cock

Note – first baby steps towards fiction. A part of this is true, I did throw a stone at Mr Rooster. Unfortunately, it did hit him hard.

My name is PCock. The ‘P’ is silent, as in PSmith. Technically, I am a rooster.  I am a well-settled cock at a village in southern most part of India. I keep a modest harem of eligible hens. I am big. I am strong. In short, life is good.

I feel rather disturbed this morning. I couldn’t figure out why initially. I thought a wee bit about it for some time. Tried introspecting – why is the old heart so heavy? I concluded that it must be her – “Paaru”, the light of my soul.  I thought I should just write it out. Writing helps, you know.

Paru is this cute chick. My neighbour. Well, no more a chick really, but a true warm blooded chicken, with rotund features and a body that I would like to know better. It wasn’t love at first sight you see..  It just ….  happened.

We used to hang out together. Our homes are adjacent to each other with a small village road acting as the divider.  My home, rather my keeper’s home, doesn’t have as big a backyard as Paaru’s owner’s.  Small space, and the continuous cacophony of the demented lot I am surrounded with  were sufficient enticements to make me want to take that frightful leap across the road to Paaru’s home. OK, all right, I admit! – those are just ruses. I wanted to be with her.

There was enough of grub to feast upon in Paaru’s backard.  One could dig up worms all day hither thither with nary a worry. Plus they didn’t have a dog. Well, that is not exactly on the money – for the dwellers there are worse than dogs – particularly one, the villain of this story. He is a human. I don’t know what his name is, for I don’t speak their language. He is the one who got Paaru there in the first place, and hence brought this little bit of sunshine into my otherwise dreary life. I suppose I should thank him for that, and I did too, until he did what he did.

I tried every trick known-st to cock-kind to  woo her. I found out the best places where you would get the juiciest worms and bugs and such. She didn’t even as much as give me a glance. Worse, she used to set forth behind that human parasite. Let us call him “P” for our convenience – ‘P’ for ‘parasite’

Each morning, this P would take his spade and start digging around – I really didn’t know why. Not that he did anything useful anyway. You should watch my keeper working his spade – I tell you, it is art work.  True, it is harder to find something to eat if your backyard is all neat and trimmed, but one can’t help admiring it anyway.

So, coming back to Paaru, she would always go with him and then dance around him. I could see him picking out worms and giving it to her. What is wrong with humans? Why was this guy so fixated on a chicken? Sometimes they would get too cosy for my liking. You would see him strutting around with her in his arms. He would scratch and mollycoddle her and she would purr happily in his arms. I would register my protest my cocking loudly. I soon figured out that it ain’t a good idea, ‘coz that moron seemed to relish throwing stones at me.  I soon figured out that the best way to dodge his missiles was to stay put where you are – he was the master of mishits.

Nyways, slowly but surely I did manage to engage her attention. I am after all, what you would call a handsome cock. She was quite haughty at first, but I kept persevering. Soon she did not seem to mind me tagging along with her. After a few days, she seemed to evince a passing interest in the worms that I would dig out for her. She would come and pick on a few of them, but she never said anything. But I could sense it – she was weighing me. She probably liked me, but didn’t want to show it. Hens! I tell you – they never think straight!

I wasn’t entirely sure I was in love  with her. I liked her of course, but I didn’t feel that crazy sense of that-is-my-girl kinda feeling. That was until I saw her one day, sunning herself. It was noon time. She was lying on her side, her legs outstretched, wings unfolded. The feathers on her wing fluttered gently in the mild afternoon breeze. She was half asleep – one eye half closed. Her bosom heaved gently while she lay there – warming up her golden feathers. It hit me suddenly.. Bang! I knew life would never be the same again.. I knew she was the one.

A fierce passion to be with her seized me. I could feel blood throbbing through my arteries – she had just opened my floodgates of love. But she would not let me touch her. She would let me be with her though. Days passed.. Soon she started coming to me. Each day we would set out.. Oh! What joyous days they were! Finally, that day came. I could see it in her eyes.. Words unspoken, but two hearts beating as one. I lost sense of time.. or where we were. I embraced her.. and… well.. modesty permits me to be explicit here.

Pluck! I felt a sudden spasm on my back! I flew 2 feet in the air and landed with a thud! That was incredible! You see that was my first time! I didn’t realize you got a hard hitting sensation on your back – none of my buddies had mentioned that about their first times. I tried to stand – a bit unsettled. Damn! Love hurt!

I looked at her. She had a confused look on her face. I stood for a moment wondering what I should do next. Whooosh! Another spasm of pain up my spine. My instincts kicked in. That wasn’t love.. There was something else going on … it was a stone! That son of a *&#^@&#$#, “P” was throwing stones at me! And the damn stones were hitting me hard and bang on! Venting loudly the rage in my soul, I rushed past him and half ran, half flew to my home, my injured pride following  my wake. I leaped across the village road, landed on my backyard and looked back. That sick moron was laughing, he seemed rather pleased! All this noise had attracted the attention of the whole lot at my home. The buffaloes gave me vacant stares. The hens, who were busy fighting with each other stopped, and  were watching the proceedings with unconcealed amusement. I could see a whole lot of emotions. Concern, serves you right, indifference.. you name it, it was there on somebody’s face.

Crushed, I looked back. Paru didn’t seem to mind much. She was busy eating a heap of grains that the hound had given her. I stood there.. I looked at him. I didn’t do it consciously, but the words foamed deep inside –  “May you find love only to lose it! You moron!”.  I had never cursed anyone before, and probably will never again, but what was said was said.

I stood there staring at both of them, and then limped back to my coop.

(Addendum, after a year)
These days he does not throw stones at me. I have walked past him many times – he does not even bother to spare me a glance. I have thought about it long and hard.
I wish I could roll back that curse! I miss his stones.

Parvathy Parinayam

We were watching Shubha Yatra, a Malayalam movie, yesterday.

It stars Jayaram and Parvathi.  The tale is about Jayaram and Parvathi’s characters having to spend their first night together, in a train to Mumbai. Unfortunate circumstances conspire to delay their consummation, by many days.

There is a song sequence that shows Jayaram lying on an upper birth in a coupe, glancing wistfully at Parvathi who is on the opposite one, and imagining “what could have been”. In a particular shot, he gives her a full screening – head to toe – like the way we used to scan pretty girls in our teens.  Those magical days!  Do you remember your  imagination enthusiastically filling in the missing details, obscured from view?

I thought  his acting wasn’t great.  Jayaram has a certain range when it comes to acting skills. He can be very very good within that range. This act wasn’t one of those. He seemed embarrassed at enacting that scene. I suspected that he was not able to hide his chivalry.

I turned over to the better half and said, “This guy doesn’t know how to act. I would have  killed this scene if  I were him”.

She nods and says, “Yep, you would have done well. In fact you did rather well, do you remember?”.

Ehh?

Time for a flashback. Our marriage was somewhat similar to this movie’s tale. It was what you call an “arranged love”. We too had to spend our first night in a train – from Tirumandankunnu to Trivandrum. In fact we had to wait for our second marriage, a few days away – a staged one, for public consumption – to be together. (Indian marriages can be really weird – topic for another tale, another time)

I struggled to recollect – What happened?  I remember that we both were on two (separate) upper births.

I asked her helplessly, “So, what did I do?”.

“You turned around and slept like a log. You killed it” – said she.

——————————————————————————————————————

“I think they were in love when they shot this movie. Btw, she seems to be dancing reasonably OK, don’t you think” – said I.  The scene was about Parvathy teaching Bharatanatyam steps to a friend’s kid, and Jayaram admiring her secretly.

“Parvathy learned dance from my teacher. She stopped after marriage”, wife said.

I thought of her teacher. Memories rushed up – she had played a decisive role in “arranging” my marriage. I gave her a call to say hello.

Some time into the conversation, I told the teacher that we were watching her ex-student dancing in a movie. She laughed out aloud and said, “Ohh, there is a story here, which I should tell you!”

(In teacher’s words)

So, Parvathy once asked me, “Teacher, who do you like best.? Mohanlal, Mamooty or some one else”.

I said, “Well, sometimes I like Mohanlal.. some times Mamooty – they are both fine actors”.

“Well, what do you think of Jayaram?” Parvathy asked.

“Ohh, he is not a good actor. He is just OK”, I said.  Parvathy’s face turned a crimson red.  I didn’t know why.

Next day, I narrated this incident to a class mate of hers. The classmate exclaimed, “Ohh teacher! Why did you say that. She is madly in love with him!”.

Well, long story short, she stopped coming to my classes! If I knew, I would have considered  him to be the finest actor on the planet!  Sigh!

I burst out laughing. Well teacher, when you tell a woman at the peak of her love, that her man is not not excellent at something, what do you expect?

“That is true”, said Teacher.

Elevated Consciousness

I woke up with a start. The Volvo had just been rudely violated by another pothole on the road. My eyes were weary from jittery  sleep. I was on my way to Trivandrum. I badly wanted to pee. The bus had an attached loo that I eyed longingly.  How many more minutes to TVM? I asked the conductor. “Ohh, only one more hour sir!”

“Loo?”

“Locked Sir!”, he said.

“Trivandrum, 10 km” – a signboard read.  A butterfly flew past, overtaking the Volvo.

Should I ask to stop the bus?

  • it would cause a traffic jam. (Not me peeing; the roads are narrow)
  • I knew it would take me a long time to get started. You can’t perform when you know that a bus full of people is watching you.

I decided to think of something worthwhile. I thought of Meenakshi Srnivasan. The mania started sometime back. I happened to watch a video of hers and was hooked. I was on my way to watch her dance, all the way from Bangalore. Of course, Someone would also be coming. If Someone did come, one could perhaps discuss intricacies of various talams with her, and perhaps with any luck a whisper technical question or two in her ears.

Reached Vailopalli.  Just as I hoped out of the ric, I saw Her with her Dad. My razor sharp intellect swing into action to find seats such that I could sit with her without having her Dad in between. She conveniently decided to ditch us both and went and joined members of her troop – and I had the full pleasure of sitting beside her Dad. Ahh well!

The show started. The Dad fished out a camera. I was a bit alarmed – is he going to take shots with flash on? The first thing he did was to turn the flash off. Worthy father of the dancer, I thought to myself, and found myself warming up to him.  I took a few deep breaths – I had to relax. It was as if I was taking on nervousness on behalf of the artists. The vocalist started off offering us a melodious keerthanam. I did get goose pimples. Anything that gives me goose pimples is art. Simple.

Now, when you dance like the Meenakshis, it shows. Is this lady supposed to be in her 40s? I couldn’t believe – ‘coz I saw a 18 year old on stage. She started of with a < I don’t know technically what it is called>. It featured Krishna prominently. What would these dancers do if  Krishna, the character, did not exist? I mused.

It would be a cliche, if I wrote here how nice it was and such. Hence I won’t. Instead, let me just write down random feelings.

There was a piece where the heroine felt that she was born to be united with Krishna – emotionally, physically and spiritually. Think of it – how many faiths or schools of thought are there that can accept the idea of treating the Higher One as something that can you love physically? If that is not a liberal mind, what is? The enactment showed the heroine wearing the garland offered to the deity.  Not everyone can shed every bit of inhibition and pick up a garland and experience the bliss of togetherness she wants to feel. So did this Nayika. She was a bit conscious of herself – looking around, is someone coming? Is someone watching? Would the dancer too be conscious, initially? About the audience? About people watching her emoting? Will she be able to feel that “togetherness” unless she lets  herself sink into it, taking her own time?

The Nayika grew progressively more and more into a trance. She finally picked up that garland and with extreme tenderness, wore it on her neck. She bowed down and offered herself totally to Him, as the percussion worked itself to a climax. I raised my palm to clap. But I couldn’t clap. Meenakshi was still that Nayika and not Meenakshi. The veins on her face and neck throbbed. Her fingers shivered. If I were a more evolved soul, I probably would have felt the pleasure (or was it devotion alone?) she felt.

She took her own time to switch back to being herself.  I just sat there. For a brief moment, I forgot the audience, and the stage and the other artists. All I saw was that Nayika, who just felt the bliss of being with her beloved. I folded my palms, and let it remain so – a gentle mark of respect.

That was followed by a piece where the Nayika is cross with a rooster. She has just bedecked her lover with the choicest jewels and such and a blasted rooster crows, before she gets to be with him to her heart’s content. Why would the Nayika bedeck him with jewels, if she was about to remove all of that to enjoy him? I wondered. Ahh well, in art, one must not use too much logic! And women, they are not straight forward like us, men, anyway! I couldn’t follow the lyrics, but I suspect this was the theme.  Suffice to say that it was a cute piece. There is this tiny part where she stands clutching a stone, waiting to hear that spoil sport crowing once again, waiting to shed her frustration by way of a sharp, well aimed throw. She can’t find the rooster so she lets the stone drop. The mridangist was spot on on synchronizing with the falling stone. Pure joy to watch.

Many a time, I caught myself focusing on the accompanists, ‘coz they were that good. Meenakshi had introduced the mridangist as someone whose mridangam sings. Quite. The audio mixing too was just too good. The effects that he could produce from the valam thalai could be heard with breathtaking clarity. The violinist was another interesting study. He played in very sedate tones for most part – no show off at all. I kept wondering, why? And then, in a small interlude his brilliance came forth. I felt this shudder of pleasure in my body – and cocked my ears to listen to the passage he repeated. All it takes is  a small flick of the fingers to set you apart from the others – no sweating brows, no super fast hand movements.

Meenakshi showed no signs of tiredness. Is this lady for real? I wondered. Unknowst to the world, about 3 weeks back, I had tried to enact a few random movements – such as balancing on one leg and swaying back and forth, in the confines of my bedroom. If you were willing to stretch your imagination to bursting limits, you could be forgiven in guessing that it as an attempt to ‘dance’. I still haven’t recovered from the energy drain! Ohh, and during my self absorbing “show”, I caught myself in the large full length mirrors in my bedroom. I thought I saw Mr Bean, sans the coat.  All my pretense of making small graceful movements just swooned away. {The large mirrors were installed there by the previous tenant. I am sure she put them to good use.  I too find them quite useful – I get to offer myself a good shave everyday}

The vocalist did an alaap after this piece. I had to exercise my iron will from breaking into a hum myself.  He had that joy in his voice – effortless control and beautiful expression of feelings. Awesome range too – he was equally good at the delicate highs and the deep lows.

Meenakshi concluded with a thilanna. I couldn’t help wonder  – does she have shoulder sockets like the rest of us? Her arms swing on their shoulder hinges, even when they are perfectly straight! So can I, but we are talking of grace here. I wish I knew enough technical terms to convey what I wanted to, better. I sat for a few moments, soaked in bliss. But, as I sat there, relishing all that, I couldn’t help wonder. Isn’t this what  separates the Human from the countless animals that pretend to be one? I don’t use those words with arrogance; instead with sorrow, and empathy.

How is a man supposed to find himself/herself “in the zone”? Where he/she feels an elevated sense of consciousness, a feeling of being separate from the nether world? Physical union with someone you deeply love and “connect”? Love for an offspring? Devotion – surrendering yourself to the concept of divinity? Creativity? Do even the evil find joy in what they do? Or is that just my macabre thought?

Do you find that by exploring yourself? What are you? Why is it that I feel so deeply moved by something when my sister yawns at the same? Do the memories and interests of someone up your ancestry persist as genetic code, only to resurface sometimes? All right, I think I am getting too deep, too fast. Some other time, some other blog.

Kumara sambhavam

Happened to read KumaraSambhavam of Mahakavi Kalidasan recently. This sounds like an exaggeration, but a life spent without reading it, is a life ill spent.

I just had to write out some of the pieces that moved me the most. It is magically beautiful – period. Try to find a translation that has the original Sanskit verses and explains the verses word by word. You wouldn’t be disappointed. If you can read Malayalam, get the version of Kutty Krishna Marar.

For those who do not know – it is the story of birth of Murugan. There was this Asura who was creating chaos all over and being a pain in the bums of all Gods. The Devas (Gods) were getting increasingly pissed with this man. He had obtained a boon that no creation of Brahma (The Creator) could annihilate him. The only option  was that an offspring of Siva had to be born to put him in his place. Siva, meanwhile was leading the life of a hermit, deep in meditation and penance after the death of his wife Sati. Sati, incidentally was reborn as Uma, to Himavan and Mena. Uma is all grown up now. The Gods somehow want Siva to take an interest in Uma and vice versa so that they fall in love and beget a child. Siva is not terribly interested in Uma initially. Uma, takes this as an insult and decides to do a penance to get Siva to love her and marry her. (I tried this. Does not work!)

Siva eventually succumbs (out of consideration to the Gods who were repeatedly nagging him to beget a childwith Uma, or so he claims!) and they get married.

FYI – Siva, incidentally has an additional eye on his forehead

Excerpts…

On Uma’s beauty

After having created her voluptuous limbs that were perfectly curvaceous  and long (but not too long), the Creator must have had great difficulty in sculpting up the rest of her body!

What can I say about the elegance of her waist and her behind. How could it not be, for she was the one who eventually adorned Siva’s lap – a position that no woman could ever even dream of.

Her arms, I feel, are more delicate and beautiful than a garland of the finest flowers. After all, Kamadevan managed to ensnare Siva with these very same arms, even though he himself lost.

Her honey-laced voice! When she speaks, a koel cooing would sound as discordant as the notes from an ill-tuned Veena.

Did the deers of the mountain range steal away her eyes and make them their own, or did she instead steal away their eyes?

Alas! Kamadevan, who was so proud of his own bow, turned mum and gloomy once he happened to see her bow-like eyebrows.

Uma and Siva meet

(Siva visits a calm and peaceful valley in Himalaya near Uma’s home and starts his penance there. Himavan deputes Uma and her friends to play host. Siva agrees to Uma and her friends being around to attend to him)

Parvathy (she is not Uma yet) would wipe, dust and clean the altar where Siva meditates. She would also fetch him water and long grasses and such needed for meditation.  Later in the day, she would often sit unobtrusively, relaxing in the cool moon light emanating from Siva’s hair-do. (Siva carries the moon on his hair, as an accessory! Beat that!)

(There is a long chapter describing how nature went into over drive to ensure that Siva and Uma, when they met, found themselves in a picturesque and romantic setting. The descriptions are so rich and vivid – he couldn’t have imagined it without seeing those. He must have been a keen observer of nature and he must have seen those places. I am not even going to try jotting them here)

One evening, as Siva slowly comes out of meditation, Nandi, the chieftain of his Ganas (folks in his tribe), informs him that Uma and friends wish to pay their respects and to attend to him. Taking the slight movement of Siva’s eyebrows as a sign of acceptance, Nandi allows Uma and friends to approach Siva. Uma has a garland made of dried lotus seeds, which she offers at his footsteps. Siva blesses her thus “May you find a husband who  never can think of another woman!”.  Kalidasa then smiles – “After all God’s seldom speak meaningless words…”

Uma then takes out a garland she had made from fresh lotus buds and extends her arms to offer them to Siva. Siva, wishing to please all who are devoted to him, steps down to accept it, and his gaze falls on her face for the first time. His glances roam all around her face finding any one place to rest, for her features outdo one another in their awesomeness. Finally, his gaze rivets at her inviting red lips that resemble the ripe fruits of a bimba tree.

(Siva is suddenly aware of a “disturbance” within him, looks around, sees Kamadevan crouching at a distance, about to stike him with an arrow, gets mighty angry and proceeds to burn him to ashes then and there)

Uma, feeling dejected and hurt, somehow gets back to her boudoir. Dejection she could perhaps stand, but the fact that her friends had witnessed Siva’s tantrums is something she is not able to take. She decides that she would enter into a penance and get Siva to accept her. Upon hearing this, her mother cried “U ma!” – ‘don’t do the penance!’. That’s how Parvathy became Uma.

(Long chapter of Kamadeva’s wife Rati, weeping and wailing over his death)

Siva accepts Uma

Siva, finally visits Uma disguised as a sage, to probe her intentions and for some plain mischief. Her friends narrate her plight.

Oh Wise one! She makes us weep when she tries to sing hymns of Siva, for her voice goes all tense and she breaks down into sobs.

She manages to close her eyes for a few seconds before dawn, but immediately wakes up crying “Siva, whither goes thou”, with her arms around her imaginary lover!

The Sage then proceeds to paint an interesting sketch of Siva – about his spartan outlook, high disregard for fashion and comfort, having an ox as a vehicle et al, and how Uma, the most exquisite thing ever, would find it so difficult to live with such a person.

Uma, nostrils flaring and eyes burning, ticks him off pretty well and asks him to mind his own business. His caste, fashion sense, inappropriate sense of toilette, none of them mattered, for she just loved him. Period! She gets up to leave.

The sage gently stops her with his arms. Uma turns back, and is pleased pink to see a smiling Siva, who bows to her and says

“Oh pretty one! From this moment, I am a slave that you won over with your penance”

Uma weds Siva

(Now it starts getting better.. He describes their marriage and honeymoon 🙂

Siva sends the great Sages to Uma’s father to seek her hand in blessing.

Devarsho evan vadini, pithuh parshve parvathi

adhomukhi leelakamala pathrani, ganayamasa

As Devarshi sought Uma’s hand, Uma standing beside her father, with her face bowed, was busy counting the petals of a lotus!

The Wedding

(Beautiful description of Siva getting dressed up for the wedding. Siva arrives at Uma’s home and is welcomed to the marriage pandal. Uma is also brought in. There is rich and detailed description of how Uma was woken up, bathed, dressed up, pampered and such.)

Their glances, surreptitiously creep up to each other, unable to contain their desire to gaze at each other. Their glances would meet, and suddenly fighting shy, they would take flight, only to steal back to each other with renewed earnestness!

When the purohit uttered “My child. This Agni is the witness to your wedding. You should love and care for your husband!”, Uma’s ears stretch all the way to her eyes to take in those magical words that she had been yearning to hear for so long. She drinks those in, just as a parched land would drink in the first rain drops of monsoon.

When Siva points out Dhruva (a star), and asks Uma to sight the same, she manages to glance up and somehow whispers “Yes, I do see”. (Part of wedding ritual)

After the wedding, Goddess Saraswati plucks a fresh lotus from a pond and holds it by its stem. The petals swoon down and the lotus becomes an umbrella; the water droplets on the petals trickle down and form teardrops at the edges of the petals, resembling a pearl-studded umbrella!

Siva and Uma are now thrown together. As per rituals, they are to remain celebate for three more days! (Define Intolerable Cruelty!)

Siva takes a more than academic interest in Uma and her person. Uma instead, finds herself getting all the more restrained and reticent. She barely speaks, unless spoken to. She would start to leave if His hands happened to brush her clothes. She would lie with her back turned towards Him.  Siva finds it increasingly difficult to contain his impulses.

One night, as He lay pretending to be fast asleep, Uma is unable to contain her curiosity any longer, and she slowly turns and sits up to look at His beautiful face. As she is drinking in the handsomeness of His features, He opens his eyes suddenly, blinks and transfixes her with a smile. Uma shiveres away, red with  shame, as if struck by a lightning and does not move an inch that night.

When Siva utters a few words occasionally, she would just nod her head to indicate that she is listening.

Uma wakes up to the reality that the knots of her skirt were undoing themselves mysteriously.  Panicking, she closes His eyes with her hands, for she has no doubt how they undid themselves. While she lay there by his side, panting, trying to regain her composure and her modesty, with great despair she sees Him drinking her beauty in with His third eye!  [I loved this :)]

Siva’s attempts to kiss her and hug her are met with mute acceptance. Even though she isn’t responding to his affections, He feels his heart throbbing at the very sight of her.

At dawn, her friends accost her to hear the details – “Omit no details, however slight!” Strangely, she finds herself being tongue tied, even though she feels some part of her wanting to scream and reveal everything!

Slowly, she finds herself being more receptive to His advances. She would embrace Him when He hugs her. She wouldn’t turn her face when He rushes to kiss her. She would offer the tiniest resistance when His hands creep up to the knots of her dress.

Once, unable to restrain herself, she embraces him eagerly and kisses His forehead. The ashes smeared on his forehead fall into his eye, causing them to water. While she blows off the ashes from His eyes with tender care and love,  He stands there taking in the sweet smell of her moist breath, that has the aroma of a blooming lotus.

At night, Uma gets terrified by the loud trumpeting of the elephants, she would rush to His arms and hold Him tight. Many a  moon lit nights pass by, as Siva lies, soaked in the joy of her embraces.

They spend their mornings taking long  baths in the Milky way; she hitting Him playfully with long stems of lotuses, and blinking her eyes when ever he throws drops at her playfully.

One evening finds Siva and Uma are sitting on a rock with Uma reclining on his left arm. Siva looks at the setting sun and addresses Uma thus –

 “The setting sun, has extracted the beauty of a lotus and set that in your eyes, as he is about to pull the curtains on the day.. just as at the end of time, the Lord, would pull the curtains on this universe. The sun however feels safe in the knowledge that, that it transferred to your eyes for safe keeping will remain so till next morning when he rises again!”
 
(The beauty of a lotus is the only thing worth retaining at the end of day. The sun retains that in Uma’s eyes for safe keeping.  Also, Uma’s eyes get to become all the more enchanting as night advances.. )

[Boy, Siva was an incredibly patient dude! This whole coo-chi-cooing took months!]

Rest of it is too private 🙂  Let us let them be….

 

Nishagandhi

How do you appreciate art? There is a school of thought where the practitioner and the audience understands the intricacies of laid out rules, and the practitioner lays out a performance that demands as much of the audience.  There is an intellectual connect perhaps between the audience and the practitioner.

There is another school of thought where you connect at an emotional level. You don’t know the rules. You don’t know why you like something. You don’t know why you don’t like something.  I belong to this school – perhaps more out of necessity than choice, for I don’t understand the rules of things I like, be it bharatanatyam, mridangam, paintings. Even if I were to understand the rules fully well, I would wish to feel more of an emotionally connect and less of an intellectual one.

If Art were to please, to amaze, to wonder, to admire, to feel  then that part of us that we don’t control does a better job of it than our logical reflections.
I happened to watch a performance this Onam. Something that I liked. Something that momentarily helped me focus, and made me vaguely conscious of some sense of optimism.
The day was ThiruOnam. I suddenly remembered there was a Bharatanatyam concert at Nishagandhi open air theater that was supposed to take place that evening. The clock showed 2:30. There still was time. Trivandrum was 3 hours away. Asked the sis if she would like to come –  She gave an indifferent “No”.

I set forth to the bus stand and finally found myself in a bus to Trivandrum. A beep. “It is pouring at TVM. The dance might not happen” – said the Aunt. “Too late. In bus. Will watch anyway”, said I. “Come pick me up” – came the command. Got down at Mascot Hotel and started to walk towards Aunt’s home. There were no ricks on the road. Most mallu men who could walk or crawl would be inside or near a bottle on Onam day. I know that is a generalization, but I guess not too far away from truth. It was raining. I started walking. And then the biting started. I was wearing my dad’s sandals. The bloody thing started biting with a vengeance. Half a kilometer and the skin had almost started coming off. Found a rick fortunately and soon found myself warming up to a cup of coffee and love.

We set forth for the dance show. Do you want Uncle’s shoes? – asked the Aunt. I admit I retain traces of vanity, and would like to be the centre of attention of a crowd, but not by wearing a pair of shoes along with Mundu. I declined. Take mine, she said and offered her sandals. I took a deep long philosophical look at it. After carefully weighing all options, I decided to wear them. You were more likely to be spotted walking barefoot than wearing a (hopefully) inconspicuous sandal, I reasoned. Arming ourselves with 2 umbrellas, 3 large plastic sheets to keep bums dry on wet chairs, a towel to wipe the chair dry and plastic bags to protect mobile phones, we set forth. (The Aunt was some big shot in some bank a few years ago. Planning is in their blood)

The good part about the rain was that the open air theater was relatively empty- which suited us admirably well. It kept the mobile-phone chattering public nuisances away. We had the place all to ourselves. We found ourselves two nice chairs at a suitable vantage point that offered us a full view of the arena. As we parked ourselves, the dancers came in took up their positions. I pointed out the Aunt’s fav niece in the troop. I had watched this dame perform before and knew a treat was in store. However, the performance being a choreographed group effort, I didn’t know what to expect.

Lights came on. With mridangam, vocals, flute and violin accompanying the dancers, the show started.
Time passed. I observed each of the dancers in turn. One couldn’t help notice that there was a noticeable difference among the artists. A few were better than the rest. I didn’t know why. You just felt it. Many a times, when I watch a performance, I see a heavy movement of arms and limbs.. but nothing stirs inside. May be I have filters installed that have made me numb to most things.
Eventually I started following the movements of the niece alone, occasionally following the others. “This dame is good” – opined the aunt. I nodded. Together, we watched her perform. Then I stopped watching, and started observing… After some time, I failed to remember I was observing. We were in it.

Her movements, her grace, her light footed springs and soft landings, economy of movement! When she held a posture of rest, only her panting bosom heaved. When she broke into movements from stillness, it was with an easy fluidity. Her arms and limbs seemed to have inborn elasticity. A movement would be arrested within an arm without the momentum getting transferred to her torso.
Expressions – you could see her eyes sparkle from 15 meters. They seemed real, and not affected. Mirth, gaiety, playfulness played up on her face. When she shook a tree as a gopika, one could see the flowers falling on her face, for her eye lids batted as the imaginary flowers fell on her face. When she held a spear as Mahishasura mardini with burning eyes and flaring nostrils, I couldn’t help wonder the plight of the future husband of hers if she decides to give him one of those looks. (Remember to see footnote)
I was woken up from reverie by my Aunt’s innocent question: “I wonder why don’t they ever show the scene where Krishna steals the maiden’s clothes?”, she mused. I thought about it for a second – an entertaining thought indeed. Nishagandhi would not have enough seats to absorb the sudden onslaught of art-hungry audience Auntie, I thought to myself.

The program was over soon. Danseuse came down to meet her Aunt with her mom and the two soon started coo-chi-cooing. Without warning, Aunt started laying out thick stories about how I had spotted off-beats in the percussion and things like that. I am pretty used to the artificially high opinions she has about me, but then this was not the right audience for that. Especially people who spend most of their waking hours near a mridangam.

I suddenly thought of Aunt’s sandals that I was wearing. V..e..r..y slowly, I pulled my limbs back lest she notices them. It doesn’t pay to look gay to beautiful maidens. The mom and daughter soon left.

Satisfied and content, we picked up our umbrellas and left soon. The rationalist at Aunt’s home would have woken up and be searching for his coffee. I couldn’t help feel a sense of lightness. A tiny but unmistakable sense of feeling good. Anything that does that to me, is Art.

Edit (a year later): “I couldn’t help wonder the plight of the future husband of hers if she decides to give him one of those looks“.  Circumstances have conspired such that I will now have ample time – rest of my life – to experience first hand the plight of that husband 🙂

 

 

Tiruvathira-kkali

Bangalore is GHQ of mosquitoes. Especially, the Koramangala area where there are nice filthy open drains. The Koramangala mosquitoes are a rather perseverant lot.

So on this fateful day, my supply of AllOut had run out. (This was a year back, somewhere 2011 ish.)

Before zzzz time, I thought I should meditate. Those days I was bitten with the “look within you” bug. So I sat down, closed my eyes. Forced a smile on my face (that’s from a psychology book. Apparently, if you force a smile, the muscles trigger some chain reaction that triggers happiness?). And tried to feel good and benevolent towards all and sundry. An easy thing to do – especially from the confines of your bedroom. I was lost in thought – I’d like to pretend that I was pondering about deep philosophical questions, but in all honesty, I probably was thinking about some good looking person who had caught my fancy.

“baaaang!” – a sudden jolt of pain. A damn mosquito had bitten me on the bums. All my benevolence gave way to sudden fury and I struck at the mosquito with all fury. Obviously, it had a quicker reaction time than I had, so it had flown away. As the blood stream cooled down, this thought struck me. All it takes to feel terribly violent is one mosquito bite. How would the Sri Sris and other God men/women would react when a Koromangala mosquito bit them, I pondered. Did they have thick skinned bums unlike mine? Ohh well, they sat and meditated in AC suites and mosquito free zones perhaps.

Anyways, I fell asleep pretty soon.

******

Mozzis…  millions of them. I couldn’t really hit them back. I felt that my arms were weighted down – I couldn’t move them. Mozzis were sucking out every drop of my blood – which was in short supply in the first place.

Suddenly I heard a  musical clap. And another. “Clap clap     clap cap” (7 beat / Misra chappu)  it went on.. with a steady rhythm. The hands slowly came into focus. Beautiful, long fingers.  The claps were slow – poetic, with a Tiruvathira-like rhytm. My gaze traveled slowly from the fingers to palm to arm, all the way to the face, taking its own sweet time.  There she was, sitting by my side wearing a settu-mundu. She had beautiful long eyes, and a jhamukka on her ears. And that angelic smile. Canines gleaming.. reminded me of those Yakshis – a benevolent one, not the blood sucking variety.  It was Sammu. a.k.a Samvrutha Sunil. A bit of googling will tell you why my sub-conscious mind invented this.. 🙂

Alas, the Tiruvathira did not last long. Another painful mozzy, and I woke up.
(Parents of prospective brides – this was years ago. No, I am not in love with Sammu)

Adventures of the Matrimonially Challenged

The day was Feb 12 2011. I was lying on a cot, lazily swatting a few mosquitoes that were getting too personal with me. The ceiling looked devoid of interest – so was my life.

They say that men automatically know when they want to start a family. It dawned upon me slowly that they were right. It is not that I had never thought about being with somebody for the next 40 years, I just felt that I wasn’t mature enough. I probably stopped growing after 23. Adult life was too distasteful for my own liking. You had to pretend, act, smile at people who made you wonder about the odds of them coming under a fat, heavy, juicy, falling coconut. You had to play games often. These were things that I wasn’t always good at. Suddenly, the enormity of the problem struck me. I was already on the verge of 30’s. Still, any grown up woman who had seen a bit of life could easily spin me like a top in the palm of her hand. One option was to stay single until one falls in love . Love turns you blind and makes the process of entrusting yourselves into someone’s hands easier. But that wasn’t a practical option.

What kind of person would I be happy with? What kind of person would love being with me? And how the hell do I figure out what I like in somebody when I don’t even know myself very well?

I called up my bosom buddy who had recently gotten married. “Dude, tell me.. how is this done?”.
“Well, first you write down your core values. And then you find someone who kinda matches that.. So simple!” he said.

Ohh! That was simple enough. I took a piece of paper and pen, and sat down, eager to list down my core values. Many a minute of twiddling thumbs later, I realized – I had none! Alarmed, I called up another friend, a spiritual Guru. “Listen to me carefully.. It doesn’t matter whom you marry. It is all the same.. Sab maaya hai!” – he said.
“WHAT????”, I exclaimed. I couldn’t accept their advises, so I did the sensible thing; turned to others.

“Write down exactly who you are and what you want!” – said another couple. They had found each other through a matrimony site. I tried to write down. Who am I? Wasn’t that some kind of philosophical question? I thought hard. I realized I knew some parts of me. There were parts I liked, and there were parts I disliked.

“Put up a profile. You might find someone”, said another who had walked the path earlier and had a couple of kids as proof.

So be it! I thought. And that was how my tryst with Kerala Matrimony began.
It has been a year now. I guess now I know all Malayalee women between the ages of 23 and 29; what they do; what do their parents do; how many of them are “loving, caring, god fearing”; how many think they are “aristocratic”, how many of the “hate liars” etc. It has been a learning experience, at times rewarding, at times extremely disgusting. I now understand Kerala society much more than I did –  KM confirmed my suspicions about Malayalee society.

What if I look at non-mallus? How can one liver with a girl who can’t understand the context of “Ente garbham engane allah!“. Isn’t worth it, no matter how hot she is.

Let me edit away all the un-interesting parts and tell you all the juicy bits. Let me start with a contemporary dancer. Before I regale you with my KM stories, I got to set some context. When I tried to really ask myself what kind of person I would be most happy with and vice-versa, certain images kept springing up. This image of a dancer kept popping up. I know not why. I kept wondering – no one in my family dances. I do, but to other’s tunes… These days even that has stopped. Vivid images of a koothambalam (a place where dance is performed, usually in temples) made of stone, a placid river, giant stones by it’s side, sound of mridangam and thamburu et al. Some kind of previous birth memories? I blushed and looked around to see if anyone was watching. I suspect it has got to do with some lingering teenage impressions of watching Bhanupriya dancing in Rajashilpi. For a long time I couldn’t firm up my mind if I liked the artist or the art. (Well, sometimes you get to like both)

I tried to analyze what this meant. I realized that I wanted someone who is liberal and spirited. but does not think of pooh-poohing Malayalam or its art and music as means of achieving the same.

I wrote my first search text: “malayalam beautiful hindu music dance classical travel liberal”. I know you are thinking ‘this guy is an ass’. Welcome to the club, and please join the queue.

I know I will get beaten up for this, but KM said “Zero results found. Your partner search parameters are too unrealistic. Please broaden your search parameters”. I couldn’t help but smile. This time I typed “rich aristocratic well-settled hindu” – millions of hits. Exactly what I didn’t want – I knew this was not going to be smooth sailing.

There were interesting profiles aplenty. I soon realized that this was not cut out for me. Most of them had a common trend. “We are from an aristocratic XYZ family. Her father, that is I, am Foo Bar XYZ from ABC tharavaadu of DEF kovilakam. Her mother is from the IJK family. We are looking for an alliance from an aristocratic family of comparable castes”.

Comparable castes? I mean, were these people for real? There was not a bit about the girl – her likes, dislikes, what she wants to do in life, what is she looking forward to. Instead there were reams of text about their family’s prestige. Saw a profile of a cute girl – she had this damn innocent look that melted your heart. She was a ‘saliya’. What the heck is a ‘saliya’, I wondered. Where does it come in the pecking order?

Everyone in KM is a nice, warm, sensitive, caring, loving, elder-respecting, god-fearing girl. Ohh yes, many of them are “white”! (Mallu english for ‘fair’).  I had to really ask some folks what “God fearing” meant. Some are “disciplined” – so is my dog. Some were brought up with the right blend of tradition and modernity! (What was the ratio like? 46:54?) Some of them were the “Me cool babe. Ma lfe aim s 2 b happy n give plsure. ma look’ 4 a cool dude” variety. (Giving pleasure? I like that!). Some one said “I am a personal girl. I don’t want to show my private parts”. Uhhh-ooogh! Another one said “She is the great grand niece of MGR, the famous Tamil film actor of yesteryear!” (And how that turns me on!).

In short, you saw one decently written profile for every 1000 or so. There was this profile of a nurse. (I imagined myself being nursed by her – how hot would that be?)  Just four lines, but exceedingly well written. Mighty impressed, I sent a photo request. I don’t know what made me copy those four lines and do a Google search. Google spat out a series of profiles, all had the same text! What kind of a person would copy someone else’s text to put in your own profile?

I gave up. But I found it pretty interesting to read what people wrote. KM could really make you laugh.

Here is a mail from a relationship manager – “My member finds your profile interesting. Would like to get in touch”. I shuddered at the images this threw up in my mind! Another one – “Please find enclosed the offer of my daughter for your kind consideration. Documentary proof of every nature is must” (What’s the Return Policy? – wanted to ask him).
“Mr X, You say in your profile you are broad minded. Define broadmindedness – its parameters and boundaries”, said one. I wanted to write back “Not exceeding how many words, Uncle?”.

I have had my share of blunders too.
Once I happened to search for “classical carnatic”. You might ask me what has that got to do with a life partner, and you would be right. I was dumber then. Anyways, so I saw this profile in KM whose name was Divya XYZ. I had a parallel search running in Shaadi and guess what, the same girl turns up. This time she called herself Vidya XYZ. Women! I sighed… I thought I should point out to her this error and wrote out a message via Shaadi. I got to the middle of it when Shaadi said “Word limit exceeded”. Damn! I thought I could send the remaining in a subsequent message. So, I clicked Send. And then Shaadi said “Wish you luck! We will get back to you if the member writes back”. Which meant unless she wrote back you couldn’t send the rest of it! With a sinking feeling, I read the mail I had partially sent. It has only half the story – the build up for the punch line, and the punch line obviously was missing!
Suffice to say that if she thought me stupid and dumb, I can’t blame her for that.

Ohh I almost forgot the climax here! They were twin sisters.

There was this other profile where the girl was a contemporary dancer. Interesting profile. The mom rang up and said “Hey Listen, we are Hindu’s but we believe in Christ”. “That isn’t a sin Aunty”, I replied, without thinking.
“No you don’t understand! We have seen Jesus Christ. He appeared before us”. The first innocent thought that crossed my mind was to ask her “Does he really have a beard?”. If you thought I meant it in jest, you would be wrong. That was honestly an innocent question. I told her that as long as she doesn’t wear her faith up her sleeves, I would not have a problem as long as we both liked each other. After all I loved the song “Nee en sarga soundaryamee!”.
I wrote a long messsage to the dancer via FB. She didn’t write back. I could never understand that. I mean, how long does it take to say “Sorry, this is not perhaps right for me. Wish you good luck”.

There are more incidents, but I guess I would rather keep them to myself 🙂

The gist of it is – Kerala is still a deeply conservative and divided society. Any broadmindedness/liberal expressions you see are just that – mere expressions. Certain folks, when they write caste-no-bar, actually mean “sub-caste no bar” or “caste no bar among comparable castes”. Of course, there are exceptions. I met some really wonderful people who have made me a better person that I was a year back. But yes, I think I should stop collecting friends from KM now. The incidental costs are too heavy, if you know what I mean.

You would be lucky if you found somebody who is independent and can think for himself or herself, and does not always think and act based on what he/she is expected to do. People learn the hard way – when alliances where the magical formula was met gets broken down even before it gets started. That is a hard way to learn though.

There is more to KM and Malayalee marriages. The sinister side. In part 2 perhaps.. 🙂

Addendum: This one takes the cake
Came across this profile. She is a model, artist, musician, well everything under the sun. Asked an Aunt of mine to do the initial due diligence calls to the parent. The father says “Ohh, there is nothing to be told. Just google for her!”
Bemused, my Aunt does the googling bit. And Google obliges
“***** **** nipple slips”
“***** **** nude videos and scandals”
Not being aware of the vagaries of search, Aunt is shocked. Turns out that there is a namesake film actress.
“Don’t you think we should let him know what Google revealed about his daughter?”, I asked my Aunt.

The marriage

Note: This isn’t a blog in the usual sense – a chronicle of events during Cat’s (Aunt Agatha’s daughter’s) marriage, for the interested.

Dramatis personae
Cat – the bride
AA short for Aunt Agatha, the bride’s mom
UV short for Uncle V, father of the bride

Yes, it is loooooong and could be boring if you don’t happen to know these people.

Act 1. Scene 1: AA’s home. Day before wedding.

There were two of them. Patiently, they sketched out intricate designs on outstretched arms using henna. They were young arms, old arms, Dutch/German arms. I stood a respectful distance away watching the artists at work. I fought off the keen (academic) interest to study (some of) these arms closely – you couldn’t do so without attracting comments. I caught hold of Cat (the bride), took her aside and took a long and detailed look at her arms. “Can you spot the letters of my soon to be husband?” She asked. I wanted to tell her I hadn’t yet mastered the great art. I swallowed the thought and dutifully fished out the letters.

Scene 2: Evening. People trickling in.

The crowd was now tolerably large. Friends, families, photographers, students. Cat was back from the parlor wearing an interesting saree. No, I did not go and take a close look at the designs on the saree!

I stayed away from the lime light, watching people. It is an interesting thing to do – observing people.

A face stood out in the crowd. Radient and beautiful. I spend a few moments admiring the handy work of Nature – the master craftsman. I didn’t realize that pimples could add to one’s character – they weren’t adding to mine. “Look at the brighter side Old boy – be glad that your heart does not beat faster when you see a cow or a pair of ladies’ shoes or another man”, I consoled myself.

I guess she figured out I was staring. She looked at me and smiled. I nodded a weak “Hi” and slipped off to the kitchen to steady myself with a much needed glass of strong water.

Scene 3: Nikkie

“This is Nikkie” said AA.

Nikkie is from Germany and a vet – something I always wanted to be. What was a Vet doing in Kerala? Turned out that her mom was a friend of a photographer friend of AA and Uncle V. About 30 years ago, the German mom decided to learn english. Off she went to purchase a book of Pen friends. A German letter found its way to a remote village in Kerala-TamilNadu border, where lived a young agriculturist who too had similar ideas of learning English, who later turned out to become a pro photographer and hence meet UV and AA.

“Where are you practicing?” I asked her.
“Palakkad”, she said.
“Ohhh! I was brought up at Palakkad. Where at Palakkad?”
“Elapully”, she said.
My jaw dropped. “That is so strange. That is exactly where I was. My mom was a teacher there. Who are you practicing with?”
“One Dr Shudhodhanan”, she said.

I was speechless for a few moments. We need a flashback to know why.

Act 2: Flash back. Elapully, Palakkad. Somewhere close to 2 pm. Cira 1987

I am lying on a bed delirious with fever. A bunch of faces crowd around me. I am all of, may be 7 years.
“Let us call Dr Sudhodhanan! After all, he is a doctor”, suggests one of the faces.

Dr Sudhodhanan is a Vet and was my neighbour. His wife and my mom were colleagues.

The owner of the logical face went to call him. He soon appeared, groggy eyed. I can’t recollect what he did – I think he checked my pulse, and possibly gave me some medicine.

Scene 5: Back to Nikkie.

I narrated the flashback to her. She looked at me incredulously – she probably thought I was faking it. Imagine the odds!
For a moment I thought of the past. I could see the good Dr: zooming along on his Yezdi motorcycle billowing smoke, with his face hidden behind a pair of dark Ray-bans.

Scene 6: Enter VNN.
Vishnu Narayanan Namboodiri is a nonagenarian poet, scholar, ex-teacher, author, cyclist all combined in one shop.

His former students were seen dashing to seek his blessings. “Sir, you may not remember me, I never used to study!” said one.
“Of course I remember you XYZ! You were a backbencher.” – pat came his reply. It was funny to see middle aged Aunties dancing around a nonagenarian school teacher.

Once the crowd grew a bit quiet, AA dragged me along to introduce me to VNN.

I knelt down by his side, and for some strange reason he held my hands, and did not let go. He asked me about what I did for a living and I sheepishly admitted that I develop software. He talked a bit about how he had an epileptic seizure of late which has seriously inconvenienced him – this was a man who could be seen famously cycling even at 70.
He asked me why I had never considered keeping a tiny beard. I assured him it was not for want of trying.

During a lull in conversation, I brought up a topic that I was a bit hesitant to ask.

Sometimes, when I am lonely, I draw the curtains, shut the doors, switch off the phones and quietly pick up a book from the row hidden to the casual observer. The books in this row are wrapped in news paper, lest people read the titles – “What your mother did not tell you about spirituality” kinds. All this is part of an earnest endeavor to improve on the emotional intelligence front – practically every single lady I meet these days seems to so damn mature that I get this feeling I stopped growing since I was 15.

Well, in one of these “self improvement” moods, I had read a book about a chap’s journey through the Himalayas. VNN had written the foreword for it. The book was full of unbelievable stuff – Yogis communicating via telepathy, burning wrist watch with power of meditation etc. I confess I was inclined to believe some of that until I read the part of how mensturating women should avoid such travels as it imposes impurity on the so called sacred land. He goes on to cite examples where groups that had mensturating women faced total annihilation in avalanches.

Either I or the author was insane. The puzzle was how come some one like VNN wrote the forward for the book.

I asked VNN what he thought of the statements in the book. Little did I realize that I was touching a live wire.

“Total rubbish!”, he said. His wife, who had hitherto been quiet, pitched in. “He writes total rot!”.
VNN said how he had cautioned this chap on overdoing it and that his advice fell on deaf ears. He spoke about people who had discovered spirituality not through blind belief, but through rational thinking and logic. And why science and maths necessarily are not at logger-heads with being spiritual. If I held his palm a bit more snugly then, that probably was unintentional. He quoted from some texts, including the regular Bible/Koran that talked about objectivity and scientific temperament. After an hour or so, he announced that he had to leave – time for his medicines. We escorted him to his car. As his driver started the car, he looked at me, gestured a beard around his chin and smiled. I laughed heartily. For a few quiet moments, I let myself soak in the feel-good factor that he left around.

AA has promised to take me to meet him at his home next time.

Act 3, Scene 1: Day of the wedding

House was quiet again. UV, AA, Cat and me. Cat left to the parlor for her hair do and the attiring. She was leaving the house and would be back only after a couple of weeks – pretty soon some one else also would be a part of her life. UV suddenly realized that and walked up to her. If he felt a lump in his throat, he managed to hide it well.

Some of UV’s students dropped in. One in particular deserves mention here. Many years ago, UV, AA and the said gentleman visited some forest in Gujarat. They were not allowed admission by the range officer who happened to be a hard core so-called upper caste Hindu. This gent is a Muslim and is rather fair in appearance. The Range officer gives our man a once over, raises his eyebrows and asks him “Aap..Brahmin ho?”. Our man nods. “Aapa shubhnaam?”. Frantically our man looks around for a suitable name. His eyes happen to rest on a board listing animals present in that jungle. “Hiran Kumar”. 5 minutes later, they walk out, permits in hand.

Act 3, Scene 2: Entrance to Marriage hall.

UV and I have a common friend. He is a psychologist. We were standing near the entrance chit-chatting. People would walk by and some of them would wave at him. He would smile and wave back.
“I have no idea who most of these folks are. I am just being polite”, he said.
I assented and mumbled about how life is fast-paced, yada yada yada when I saw a car pull up and the driver waving at me. There were two ladies sitting inside – a middle aged and a young one. I remarked how it was now my turn to smile and wave, for I had no clue who they were. All went fine until the door opened and out stepped my own mother and sister. “Oh shit! Mom!”, I blurted out.
The psychologist had a fit – “I still can recognize my mother…”, he managed to say, fighting back tears of laughter.

An Alto came in with a good looking driver behind the wheels, the same pimpled work of master craftsman I mentioned earlier. I don’t know – I have this strange thing for good looking women driving Maruti Altos. An Alto looks incredibly sexy with a PYT at the wheels – or is it the other way? I thought of asking the psychologist if there was a name for the disease, but decided not to alarm him further.

The wedding was smooth and nice. The bride had genuine happiness on her face and did nothing to hide it, which might have possibly offended a few delicate Keralite souls. (“We are Keralites – No love and no sex please!” – is the Kerala culture motto. We are more Victorian than the Brits)
It felt wonderful to see a bride wearing more of happiness and less of gold. Would I feel that much of glee, I wondered. Short quick marriage – that is one good thing about Malayalee marriages. All of probably 400 people attended – another rarity. Normally, the entire state attends.

I decided to give the weary old legs a break and sat down. One of AA’s friends popped a question “Which college are you studying?”. I fought back the blood rush and managed a “No Aunty, I am working” with just the right mixture of modesty, just like the model in that ad – I hope. It felt good, until I realized later that her glasses were on her forehead, and not where they are supposed to be.

A nice lunch followed and the party soon disbursed. I packed off the mom and sis back home and went back to check on AA – it was her first night, without her baby Cat.

An evening in Thrishur

Another Train trip… This time it was about a baby.. not a babe.
This humble historian was summoned to take the sibling to Guruvayoor, and so I set forth.

There was this family in my coupe.. from Trichur. Guy a Kannadiga, girl Malayalee, child… well?
They had taken my seat and the mother was squatting on it as if she was owned it. With not a little hostility, I parked myself in one of the available seats and was soon lost in reverie.
I woke up to the soft pressure of something on my legs – the little one was standing on my legs.. and watching me me closely. I smiled. She seemed to give the matter a bit of thought – whether to smile back – and decided not to smile. Something stirred somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain/bosom .. err.. heart.. – and I realized that she was a carbon copy of what my good friend, The Cat, looked as a kid. I could feel this rush of chemicals into my bloodstream and I felt this terrible urge – to cuddle her.. and to sing a lullaby.. I was a bit surprised, I seldom found myself besieged with paternal feelings. A tangent here – I keep discovering a newer side to me, almost on a daily basis.

For a moment, like Bertie said to Jeeves, I wondered what the procedure is to have a child. There is thing called marriage that comes in between – and that meant being interviewed by prospective father in laws and mother in laws. (I was recently asked by a prospective FIL to define the parameters and boundaries of what I meant by broadmindedness. I was almost tempted to ask him “In how many words, Sir?”). The path to a child is laden with thorny parents?

Baby had just begun to speak.. Tiny syllables.. She was playing with her Grand dad. She decided to go to her Mom – and ambled across. Grand dad exclaimed “Edi..” (which in Mallu has shades of meaning from ‘Hey’ to ‘You Scum!’) to the Mom, trying to grab her attention. The little one too uttered .. “Diii”, sending folks into peals of laughter. The mama asked after some time – “vavee.. are you hungry? “, and she nodded. Mama asked “where are you hungry?”, and she immediately lifts her frock and points at her belly. I knew then – I wanted a daughter. Yes, the mother would be an occupational hazard.

I got down at Thrishur and set forth to Guruvayoor. The sis and the pater had already reached and checked themselves in. Went for a leisurely stroll around the temple premises in the evening. Guruvayoor has this temple, presiding deity being Krishna. For some reason, for most women in Kerala, Guruvayoor and Romance are synonyms, something I guess to do with poets aplenty waxing eloquently about Lord Krishna’s love making skills. And you could sense that in the air! Couples walking past, occasionally bumping onto each other, which under usual Malayali ethos would be heresy. You could only bump on to each other in the private darkness of your bedrooms – and that too “respectably”, please! Some were seen quietly sitting beside a pillar. The extreme rebels occasionally daring to look at each other and smile. We passed them by, and pushed off to watch meticulously stripped coconut leaves disappearing rapidly into two large elephantine mouths.

Sis spoke “Why don’t you marry some one from Guruvayoour?”. I said “Done..” The little matter of whom was conveniently forgotten. For a moment I was lost- what was the connection between elephants and me marrying somebody from Guruvayoor? Suddenly curious, I asked “why Guruvayoor?”. Thus spoke Sis “Ohh,, I can then come to Guruvayoor often!”. I was about to comment that I could marry then from Trivandrum, Parashaala, Aattukal too. It would be convenient to her to visit those temples. Wisdom spoke, and I kept quiet.

After packing of the family to home town, I headed back to Thrishur the next day. Went to DC bookstore and strolled around.. just looking. There was something around “Best of Malayalam erotic stories”. I found my hands creeping towards that shelf – of course to pick up the book beside it! I resolved not to buy any English stuff. Malayalam was the need of the hour. I had recently met this person – quite well read and sophisticated for her age. Wise head sitting lightly on the shoulders and feet firmly on the ground and all that. Impressed, I had resolved that I too would catch up on my reading. I thought of all the famous Malayalam writers I knew – I needn’t have bothered, couldn’t recollect any, save Basheer, and a Madhavikutty. My eyes eventually fell upon a copy of “Pathumma’s Addu” – a classic of Basheer. Picked that up, and then picked up a “Krishna gadha” by one Cherusheeri and was off.

Trichur is full of beautiful women (so I am told, and I have seen enough evidence not to doubt that). While I was walking past the round (circle around Vadakkum Nathan temple), I realized that I hadn’t shaven that day. There wasn’t much of stubble – a bit of soap and judicious application of a tongue cleaner would have done the trick. Life is kinda playing spoil sport big time these days – I decided to pander myself with a luxurious shave. I fantasized about the smoothness of shaving cream on my face, the clean, thin blade gliding off my skin, and that feeling of cleanliness. A good shave is akin to cleansing your spirit.

Try as I might, I couldn’t find a barber. Didn’t folks in Trichur shave? Found one finally – a high class, AC barber shop. The barber tried to be friendly. I kept a cold face. Too many men were asking me these days if I were single – a cause for alarm. I parked myself on a chair awaiting the luxury ahead. Things seldom go as per my plan – but I still hadn’t bargained for this. The guy had a damn blade that scorched every mm of my skin. To scream or not to scream was the question – I decided to take it manly. You couldn’t be a sissy just coz the shaving blade was blunt. I held on. We ThomasTheCats are made of steely will- we don’t surrender to blunt blades. A quite painful 5 minutes later, he picked up his cream to lather me up once again. “Enough!”, I shouted – A man must know his limits. Threw an unhappy 50 into his hands and set forth. Coffee house was next on the list. A familiar face there – a Malayalam movie director. Looks like everyone in the coffee shop knew him – everyone was giving him looks. Some longing, some wishful, some hopeful…

Fortifying myself with a good coffee, I set forth. The Vadakkumnathan temple was right ahead – and I had never seen the inside of it. Those of who you know me personally know what I think of Gods. Let them be! I say. But I have this fascination for the ambience of good temples, churches et al. It is kind a interesting how these things do you good, if you really think about it. Believing that not everything is in your control, helps you let go and accept stuff. Belief that someone else can do something on your behalf makes you retain hope – essential for survival. Having a close confident to share your troubles who can’t snitch on you is a soul balm.

You had to undress a bit before you enter the premises (Only for men.. don’t get too excited). I removed off the shirt and stepped in. I wondered if my ripping muscles and toned 6 packs would result in some of the babes loosing their focus. Sucking my breath in, lending more form to those 6 packs, I started to perambulate along the beautiful stone pavements. Old memories stirred – watching Mohanlal and Parvathy doing the walks in a movie – with a beautiful background score by Perumbaboor G Ravindranath, with vocals by G.Venogopal, alias VenuChettan. I couldn’t help smiling – I fondly remembered a luncheon a few months back. This very same Venuchettan was to my right wolfing down the delectable stuff. How unpredictable life is – I couldn’t have imagined 20 years ago, when I was humming this tune through a dilapidated old megaphone that I would be having lunch with that guy N years later.

I did a few rounds around the Chuttambalam (sanctum sanctorum) – humming some tunes that I liked.. pausing, gazing, stopping, breathing. There was this calm silence. Cool breeze, birds chirping. You could hear faint chants from somewhere. After some time, I entered the Chuttambalam. Old mural paintings adorned the walls. Most of them were really faded – you could hardly make them out. There wasn’t much of a crowd. The famed Trichur women crowd was no where to be seen. Un-deterred I walked around, and finally made my way to the place where one could see the deity. That was rather tastefully done. Quite nice, I should say. So this was the deity to whom women poured out their innermost secrets! One more look before the priests shooed me away. I walked around looking at the murals and came to the backside of the deity – and to my surprise there was one more deity there. Parvathy. To the uninitiated, Parvathy is the wife of Shiva. I stood there for a moment, eyes closed, thinking nothing. I thought of the Trichur folks I knew, about their love for this temple. I wished them well – especially for one, a gem, who hadn’t found happiness yet. A faint fragrance of some kind slowly pierced my dim consciousness, and I woke up. To my right was this dame, standing, eyes closed, hands folded in prayer. A fine specimen of the famed Trishur woman! An academic glance cast, I moved off to study the other paintings.

Eventually, I came out of the inner temple. It was already dusk. Some thing was going on on a stage erected there. I listened .. sounded like some Thiruvathira song. I suddenly remembered my aunt mentioning about Thiruvathira recently, and how the authentic practitioners were not supposed to wear inner clothing. Love of art deeply awaked, I hastened off towards the stage, found a seat in front row and set out to soak myself in the glory of Thiruvathira. I hadn’t parked myself comfortably in the seat yet, and I jumped with a start. The artists were all in their 60s – old Grandmoms – with jet black hair, dancing away to glory. I don’t know why – my appreciation of art fizzled out like a leaking soda bottle. I stood up and walked off quietly. Found a nice banyan tree. Picked up my phone and listened to some nice songs.. An alarm sounded.. it was time to push off..

I walked off the arena towards the bus stand – various thoughts weighing on my mind. Life is rather ironical – you can’t always have what you want.. You can’t always give what you want either. You think you know yourself – and you realize you don’t. You think you want something, but you realize that nope, that ain’t that important.