Saturday, May 31, 2014

Today

It was a rainy day.
(No, it wasn't. I just said that to grab your attention. Authors know the power of the opening line. And nature's ravages often make the best opening lines.)

At least, it wasn't raining in the morning when we set foot on the platform. Not the first visit, but this time was different. It was as sunny as a sunny day in summer can be. There was no promise of the monsoon.

It started to rain in the evening, thwarting all met predictions, as usual. The monsoon had hit hours ahead of schedule. And what a rain it was! I had seen rain like that before, of course. Who (from Kerala) hasn't? But I never had to be out in that kind of rain. The road had become a river, and we were in a car that was rowing through it. Headlights reflected from the water. Rain lashed against the windows. The trees by the roadside swayed in the wind. We watched the road, eyes wide and apprehensive.

The first part of the road was familiar to the person who drove. Then we had to ask for directions. Then we found it, a small building through a thick curtain of rainwater.

And the cold - I never knew a rain, even the most violent, unstopping kind could bring such cold, that we would shiver throughout the night, that would bring a cool breeze even in the morning; a breeze that I would soon be very familiar with and very fond of.

A new life, new path, new discoveries, new experiences.

Ten years ago.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Apocalypse and Monsters

And thus Godzilla saved the world.
Then it (he?) got up, ignored the crowd of bipeds who were firing at it until minutes ago, strolled into the sea and vanished. It has to lie low until the next alien menace visits earth, so that it can save us again. (I wonder what it eats. Must be seaweed.) The spectators - military, civilians and movie-goers - suddenly realise that this monster is their friend (though they were trying to nuke it) and watch it go, a grateful smile on their lips.
Clap, clap, clap.

Absolute B.S.

But what is this obsession with giant monsters destroying cities or aliens killing humans or the apocalypse?

Why do we enjoy watching the planet getting devastated and then some clever dude coming up with a plan to stop it with a single brave, brilliant, reckless act? And of finally saving Earth and its people?

For one thing (perhaps the most important), it's the effects. When Jurassic Park was released, I watched it in the big screen. The effects (sound, visual, everything - remember the glass of water vibrating when the T-Rex approaches?) were worth dying for. But that was years ago, and for us it was the first of its kind.

By now all possible kinds of creatures have grown larger than life and have attacked us. Also we have been visited by aliens of all shapes and types. They have destroyed all cities in America. (We are safe: like normal homo sapiens, they prefer America too. Which explains why the beasts that fought Godzilla went straight to SFO from Japan.)

And when climactic changes (caused by man) bring about the end of the world, it would happen in the next thirty minutes.

Anything from outer space comes only to destroy us and steal our world.

Why are we attracted to those films, to the very idea? End of the world - does that sound enticing??

It's the fear, I am thinking. We have no clue what we would do in case beasts or aliens of this magnitude do appear. Or if the end of the world is in sight.
It's an acknowledgement of our vulnerability - we're just hanging there in the edge of space, a tiny blue speck at the mercy of the entire Universe, exposed to anyone who might have any designs on us.
It's our optimistic hallucination that humanity will unite and rise and hold hands to defeat these beasts. That nature will forgive us for our errors and let us live in harmony again. (That we will have learnt a lesson and will live in harmony at all.)
It's our fondness for happy endings, to see Earth intact and chasing the sun again.
It's our penchant for hero-worship, to see the President of the US fighting aliens in a fighter plane or a marine protecting the land by taking away the nuclear bomb even at the risk of his own life or a scientist who loves the Earth letting nature have its way.

That which terrifies us, excites us. Stimulates us. And then, bores us to death.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Balance

In the balance of daily life
failure outweighs success-
the one weighs tonnes,
the other's feather light...

In the balance of happiness
setbacks outdo triumphs-
the one stings more,
the other brings less cheer...

In the balance of perceptions
pessimism outsmarts hope-
the one sounds true,
the other seems vague...

In the balance of truth, however,
efforts reign over idleness,
determination over giving up,
belief over unreal fears.

And at the end of life
achievements win over wicked aims,
A life well-lived wins hands down
Over a life wasted in malice...

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mothers' Day

There was a mother in the next compartment. I never saw her throughout the journey. I did not need to see her. From her words (in Malayalam), I could figure out that she had two children, both girls, I think.

There was also a large group of people from Andhra, on a family vacation. There was a lot of noise and commotion as this group made sure they were all comfortable and settled in their respective berths. At around ten, things became silent and the lights were turned out. I could hear her clearly then. Not just I, most of the Malayalis in the neighbouring seats could hear her, pleading, threatening, warning one of her daughters to come down from the top berth. 'You will fall down, come down', 'Either lie down with your sister or come to the lower berth with me' were repeated several times in different ways. She also muttered threats to beat the little one if she didn't obey. This went on for a long time. I was sure the entire rest of the coach, as far as her sound carried, was silent and paying attention, forming judgements of their own. I saw that little girl the next morning, she must have been three or four years old. She did look like an adamant little one.

I can imagine the thoughts that ran through the minds of many Malayalis in the train that night.
Why can't that mother just let the poor girl be?
Why can't she stop yelling at her?
Why doesn't she even remember that she is in a train and people are listening?
Why does she threaten the little girl so?
And other mothers like me, who have experience travelling with children, must have thought, She's travelling with two little girls. She must be tired and probably just wants to lie down and rest. Maybe she is longing to reach her home in the morning and relax. She is afraid the little girl who is lying in the top berth would fall down from the height and hurt herself. She wishes that the little girl would stop embarrassing her in front of everyone and just listen for once in her life.

After a while there was silence, probably the little girl decided to obey, probably they came to some settlement.

It's very difficult to understand mothers. It is easier to blame them and accuse them of yelling at their children or even beating them.
Mothers don't like shouting at their children or punishing them. Sometimes all they want is peace of mind.

This post is dedicated to that mother in the train, and many more mothers like her.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Aditi Devo Bhava: A Letter to Aamir Khan

Dear Aamir,
At the very outset, I am a fan of yours. It excites me to hear you referred to as Mr.Perfectionist, and to read about all the effort and hardwork you put in for each of your roles. I also believe that you would do only what you truly believe in. It is very inspiring, refreshing and comforting. But I am not going to talk about that, or about your latest movie, or about the latest hot topic - the elections.
I want to talk about the campaign that you are part of, called Aditi Devo Bhava. Before I begin, I want to assure you that I am all for it, and I have always been. I cringe when I see our people being disrespectful to visitors (desi or foreign) and taking advantage of their ignorance. I hate it when I see people dirtying the roads, urinating by the roadside or throwing garbage outside their car windows.
I fully support the intention behind the Aditi Devo Bhava campaign, and I hope that at least a handful of people who watch it are inspired to show some respect to others or to stop throwing banana peel out their car windows. However, I would like to bring two things to your attention, to show that even those of us with the best intentions contribute unwittingly to representing our country in a bad light:
I belong to Kerala, though I live in Bangalore. Twice a year I visit my parents in Trivandrum and stay with them for a couple of weeks. For the past two years, Trivandrum has been facing a huge issue related to garbage. There used to be a garbage recycling plant at a place called Vilappilsala. It stopped functioning over two years ago. There were several reasons. However, what it means to the residents of Trivandrum is that, there will no longer be garbage pickup from their homes. They have to dispose of it themselves. I am sure you have figured out what I am driving at. My parents have a small garden. The daily food waste serves pretty well as manure for the plants. At the corner of the garden, there is a place where they can burn paper waste. However, there are still materials that cannot be burnt or thrown to the plants. Not all waste can be recycled at home. There is nothing they can do. These waste get thrown to a pile at some obscure corner of the colony. Everyone else in the vicinity does the same. Can you imagine the plight of people living in small apartments without even space for a couple of pots of plants?
The second point is about peeing on the streets. I hate it when I see men standing on the roadside, relieving themselves as if they were in their own bathrooms. As a woman, I have had to struggle with this problem every time I travel. I need to wait till I find a hotel or some place where there is a bathroom, dirty or smelly or unclean as it maybe, closing my eyes and nose to the unbelievable sight and stench. I have made a long-distance bus wait for me for ten minutes (with all the passengers watching) while I walked into a roadside house and asked them permission to use their bathroom. Another time, a friend and I walked into a shady hotel and asked them if we could use the ladies’ room, and came out without even buying a cup of tea. And I wonder, if a woman can go through all the trouble, why can’t men? Why do they feel the roads are their property to dirty as they please? Let me tell you at this point that my son is eight years old. Having children of your own, you know how they can be. If you show them a bathroom and ask them to go, they say “I don't want to.” Five minutes later, they are screaming that they need to go urgently. By then we are in the middle of nowhere and the only option is to show him the roadside. Let me tell you, Aamir, that however much I hate it, I have had to do this countless times when travelling with my son. Even in the heart of the city. Even if I hate what I am making him do. Even if I know that my son is going to grow up thinking the roadside is intended for this purpose. Because I do not have an alternative.
I am sure you are aware of most of this. If Mohammed does not go to the mountain, there is only so far that the mountain can come to. It has its own limitations. If the government does not have a way to clear the garbage, the people have no option but to throw the indestructible waste wherever they can. If there are no pay-and-use facilities by the roadside, every few kilometres, we are forced to dirty our own streets.
I am sure there are things we can do as citizens. There are probably ways we can get around this. I think both hands must come together to clap - the attitude of the people and the support from the authorities. Aditi Devo Bhava is a very good initiative in spreading awareness and I wholeheartedly applaud the intention behind it. However, there are practical difficulties that people face, that need to be resolved too.
Thank you very much.

Sincerely,
A Mother.


I had written this some months ago, and was inspired to post this here by this blog by Anamika.

Friday, May 2, 2014

A Mother's routine for the Summer

Get up late.
Wonder whether having breakfast is a good idea, or should one go directly to lunch? Or be fancy and settle for 'brunch'?
Suddenly remember that it is a working day, though it is a holi-holiday for the child.
Rush and go through the pending works in panic. Including, throwing together some edible items into a plate and calling it breakfast for the child.
Then remember that there are chores to attend to, that need to be addressed rightaway.
Dash madly between the kitchen and the washing machine and the work desk and the bathroom and the balcony and the bedrooms, in an absent-minded effort to finish tasks.
Heat. Hot. Hotter.
Flop down exhausted and see how much work is pending: as much as it was two hours ago.
Try not to get distracted when the child runs in and out every five minutes picking up his cricket bat, throwing his football, pulling out his skateboard, tossing his sandals, and yelling and screaming.
Have lunch, two hours behind schedule.
Read SMS about rains (with thunder and lightning, no less) in Kerala and get very irritated at the injustice.
Afternoon nap. Ah, bliss.
It is evening already and a lot of work is still pending.
Mosquitoes.
TV time - an hour of (semblance of) peace-of-mind.
10pm: mostly-uninterrupted work begins.