Saturday, April 4, 2015

Searching my closet for words
One lost forever in your memory
One nagging my memory since

Monday, March 2, 2015

Bombay frenzy

Displaced memories of a place once walked

Not rushed in train compartments

Long back, probably more green and little more lush

Dirty boots soaked in rain water

Sipping a water or two from the pouring rain

I lived a moment or two

Today, same place, compartments choked in haste

Pushed along by unknown faces,

I look at a face smiling at the book and

Realize, a moment or two smiled long back

Seeks to kindle through memories

Thanks ideasmithy for a lovely post on Andheri

Monday, February 2, 2015

Cheema and tin boxes

Chemma thatha had a strange obsession (he had many, more on that later!).
He would collect items which otherwise would land in the dustbin. He was
almost like a savior of the discarded. Among the various items, which he
collected were tin boxes. Heavy ones, rusted ones, one's with designs of
ship, flower, goddess, a bird etc ., his trunk had everything.
Those  days, not many travelled abroad and we had the vicarious pleasure of
travelling  even  if  we  bid adieu in the airport.  Among the very few and
close  NRI relatives who cared for Chemma Thatha, he would take the liberty
of  requesting  a  Nivea  cream.   We  never understood why he wanted Nivea
cream.  Not  that thatha was a person who cared for his health and skin may
be  was never in his priority list. Even after retirement when people chose
to  stay  indoors during scorching Chennai summers, he would be in a public
transport  bus, inventing some odd chore which would take him to AGS office
or  Bank  or some relatives place. I never saw him apply cream during these
visits. Even if he applied during mornings, especially during our imaginary
Chennai  Marghazi  winters, it was a frugal pinch (yeah even a pinch can be
frugal  in  Thatha's scheme of things). At regular intervals, he would open
the  big trunk petti, which was with him since childhood and dump something
and  close  it  back.  This  was  his  private world, where no one dared to
intrude.   Occasionally  if  a  grandchild tried to ask him about the trunk
petti,  he  would  say  I  will  bequeath  the contents to the well behaved
grandchild.  The trunk  petti charm worked at times and when it waned away,
he  would charm us with written assurances. Of course, the beneficiaries of
the  written  assurances  would  keep  changing  and  when  we grew up, the
interest in trunk petti rusted in some corner.

Then,  beyond  Nivea  creams, occasionally we grandchildren would be gifted
chocolate  boxes  of  various  sizes  and assortments. Once, a golden small
round  box  landed as my gift and more than the contents I was lured by the
box.  Unlike the desi boxes, this seemed non rusty, subdued colours and did
not  have  a  God  Image.  This  was beyond the boring Nivea. Chemma thatha
waited  patiently  for  days,  till  I  devoured  the  contents and till my
interest  diverted  to something else. Then he placed a request, which soon
became  barter  and we agreed on some trade off. May be I exchanged the box
with some wooden pen which never wrote.

With  time,  souvenir's changed and soon the heavy boxes were replaced with
plastic.  These  were  easy  to  carry  and  the  NRI suitcases became more
manageable. So when Chemma Thatha was gifted his favourite Nivea cream in a
bottle  by  some nephew, he thanked him and told him about how he no longer
used Nivea. The chocolate boxes also came in neat plastic containers, which
became  a  storage  space  for earrings and our useless accessories. Thatha
never invaded or argued for a plastic box. Once or twice when offered a box
he would shrug with disinterest.

Before  the world of gifts was fully inundated with plastics, Thatha passed
away  bequeathing  his favourite trunk petti to his grandchildren. By then,
the  grown  up grandchildren had lost interest and we decided to dispose of
the petti. It was too old for use and too rusted for an antique value. When
the  househelp  evinced  interest in the trunk petti, we tried to moved it.
The  heavy  box  refused to budge and the family gathered to throw away the
contents.  The  small  lock  was broken and when the trunk opened, the room
submerged  in  an assortment of smells, of cream, chocolate, dried flowers,
damp  papers.  Beneath  the  tattered bus tickets, tin boxes, was the Nivea
bottle which thatha never used.

Friday, January 23, 2015


When I turned away
You were smiling at the passing clouds

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Soaking in past
Fresh rays pierce
Through hard bark

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sita Kalyanam

It was a hot summer Trichy day when I first heard the song. Sarees,pavadai, jewellery glittered in excitement and rays of sun goddess pierced in all glory.  I was soaked in the hustle, watching everyone aimlessly walk around in hurry, an odd photographer holding on to the lighting and camera with wires dangling everywhere.  Occasionally people would trip and the apologetic photographer would fret at the hapless assistant. Cacophony of voices rang all over, with the omnipresent enge (where) screaming over the top. It started from enge vadhiyar to enga poonu to enga thatu to……  I was may be around ten and this was the first time, I wasn't running around with cousins in the marriage hall. The hide and seek with cousins took a backseat and I was engrossed in the conversations of mami's. Some necklace design overshined the bride's jewellery and soon a row of mami's held on to the necklace, watched it in piercing sun rays, felt it and then passed it on. Conversation moved from where, when and why bought to beautiful saree, Diwali purchase aahh, to the ubiquitous tailor saga, blouse patterns and finally the breakfast. Idli poo madhiri, gosthu could have been more spicy, vada nala dhan irruku, yaar cook, I should give his number to periamma, her daughter is getting married next, guy is from USA, they are demanding hygiene and tasty food, where to go for hygiene, theriamma that girl, well,we will talk later , was AC working in your room, its soo hot and on and on…..The pattern of conversations was so interesting that the nudging cousins could not pull me off that place. Even their discovery of darker rooms, maze like stairs, many options to be lost in the old marriage hall didn't entice me enough. That was may be my first official induction to oooru vambu, sigh! So you know where it all started.

When these conversations were going on, a set of people walked outside the marriage hall, with plates, lamps, bride and groom. There she was, the grand old oonjal decorated with flowers, sitting pretty on the bright summer day. The bride and groom sat on the creaking oonjal and the mami's circled around with lamps and plates. The giggles of kasi yatra and how the groom refused to come back and acted as though he was really going to Kasi just subsided. May be the groom was a fun loving chap they said. No one does these antics,  which part of US he is from , they are more fun loving.  So, another learning came my way, guys who do these antics are cool. For all the talk, may be the guy was bored walking with the stick and decided to really run away from the marriage. Let's not get there.

It was during these giggles and extended conversations of jewellery, sarees etc someone nudged someone and that someone nudging someone else. The nudge finally settled with patti singing Sita Kalyanam…..Soon it was a chorus and for that few moments, conversations of saree, jewellery, breakfast, enge fizzled out and Sita walked in with all glory.  Sita might have just settled in our minds and when Rama was entering grandly in the song, patti realized that the circling around the oonjal and red rice balls of drishti got over and it was time she stopped singing. So, there was Rama, lost in the midst of chaos even before he could enter. My love saga with that song started during that marriage. It was like an unfulfilled desire, to be resurrected during every marriage, during every oonjal, waiting for Rama to come and then watching the frenzied crowd walking back to other rituals. In the years to come, many voices sang that song, but never did Rama come in all glory, even if he did, he was rushed and had to walk off in all hurry. So, when the authentic listening during marriage betrays you, you listen to the youtube serials crooning to the songs in make believe marriages.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Crispy dosa

This feels good, he said, allowing the flavours of spicy chutney, smooth butter and crispy dosa  to sink in. They settled down in the vast area like fine mounds of aroma, taste, colours dancing in the stomach, with the aftertaste gushing in the food pipe. Eating with him was like experiencing the taste in every detail, letting the food talk to you. Before he could burp (well his niceties wouldn't allow him to!!!), I asked whether he wanted milkshake. Ah, he said let the flavours sink in more before I corrupt it with other tastes. Eh, but why milkshake he said. I tired of shakes, smoothies and phirangi stuff. Phirangi, did I hear that from a person who almost ran away from this country for greener pastures. I still remember him gleaming from other side of glass, holding his passport as though his life rested in there. Before we could bide a decent farewell, he rushed in, pushing the enormous luggage to security check. That was years back, when I still hoped he would come back, atleast for the elaborate lunches. Those were days, when amma's sambar rice would tickle his taste buds and he would push his purchased dhabha to my side and gorge on the sambar and vegetables. Does your mom still make gongura, avakai, puttu……he asked pushing me back to present. Well, yes. I will parcel some for you, to fit into your foreign suitcase. You know they parcel specially for foreign travels. Hmmm, he murmured before shouting for a coffee. Naraye decoction and konjum milk. Ah, ha black coffee, I smirked. So the phirangi aspect comes out, isn't it.


So, well, how come this trip. The silence was filled by the coffee slurps moving in annoying slow pace. With the conversation thread lost, I watched him gulp the last drop of coffee and pushing the dabara. There he said, looking at the brown sugar crystals settled down in the dabara, this is indulgence, loads of sugar, thick milk and thicker decoction. This is worth a lifetime of wait.


So, should there be a wait. By now, the aromas had sunk in and we were back to familiar after taste. He said, some more time. Outside, rain drops fell from the roof, like a lost conversation still trying to convince us. Before there was a question on how long could I wait, we paid the bill, and watched the rain drops from the roof get lost in the puddle. For now, I said lets head home before it pours. Before the deluge, we would have answers.