RADHIKA KARTIC 20/5/2019
School days are always filled with fun and mine is not an exception. Especially my middle school was filled with so much of fun and gave me a lot of learning experience. I explored different things like drama, singing, debating, anchoring and many more during these days(எல்லாமே class cut பன்ன சிறந்த வழியா இருந்துது).I started cycling to school from Class 8 and my friends and myself used to join together as a group and go to our school. My house is located in a scenically beautiful area close to the Agricultural University and one can see a beautiful stretch of trees, fields where the agri students will be doing their practicals, sunflowers blooming beautifully and a traffic filled road(இப்போ இருக்கற traffic அ compare பன்னினா அது ஒன்னுமே இல்லிங்க).To avoid the traffic and also to reach school on time we used to by-pass the main road and commute through the Agricultural University(அது ஒரு அத்துவான காடுன்னு சொல்லலாங்க).The moment we enter the university gate we will start racing and at times we will take different routes separately to reach the exit gate. (This was mainly done with the intention to not feel the distance and make our journey more interesting).Whenever we don’t have any company we take the main road for our personal safety.இப்படி தாங்க ஒரு நாள் தனியா போகவேண்டி இருந்துது. Since I had to reach school on time I started off a little early and சமத்தா school போயிட்டேங்க. While I was returning from school it was so boring to cycle all alone. (ம்ம்ம்ம் இப்போ என்ன பன்னலாம்?) As i started thinking, I got a beautiful idea (வேற என்ன, race தான்). அட யாருகூட race வச்சுப்ப? Is what you want to ask me, right? There were six bus stops between my school and my house and I thought why not have a race with the bus? I was waiting for a bus to come and 1C, a bus which comes every ten minutes in that route came. I was waiting for the bus to start and the moment it started I started speeding up by putting all my strength on the pedals.I followed the bus and the moment it reached the next stop I would overtake the bus and felt (yeeeeee நாம பஸ்சயே ஓவர்டேக் பன்னிட்டோம் அப்படின்னு மனுசுக்குல்ல நெனச்சுப்பேன்.) திருப்பியும் பஸ் என்ன முந்த நான் அத முந்த, இப்படியே வீட்டுக்கு வந்துடேங்க. I felt very happy and proud of myself. My mom came back from her office after an hour and the moment she entered our house she started calling me (Radhikaaaaaa).I came in front of her and asked her என்னமா எதுக்கு கூப்ட? She asked me “ இன்னிக்கு bus கூட cycleல race பன்னியா?” I gave a thiru thiru (thiruttu) look at my mom and I need not explain to you people what happened next. (Some neighbourhood aunty who was travelling in the same bus with which I raced had informed my mom about my adventurous cycle ride)
Now a Vadivelu dialogue comes to my mind which is “எந்த ஒரு விஷயத்தையும் பிளான் பன்னாம பன்னா இப்படி தான்”.
By RADHIKA KARTIC
26 April, 2019
Today I came across a few advertisements about theme parks and the offers available for this summer. On looking into the pictures posted for the ad, it took me back 20 years when I was a child and how I spent my days.
Our family used to live in a rented house and there were a line of houses next to each other inside a compound. Ours was popularly known as “line வீடு”. When we ask any child to draw a house it will typically take the shape of a triangle for the roof and a rectangle for its walls. Similarly our line of houses were ஓட்டுவீடுகள், lined with a few coconut trees near the compound wall, bougainvillea and jujube (அதுதாங்க எலந்தபழம்) and a corporation water tap in a corner with a lot of gardening space behind the house. Every house had two to three children and we used to play a lot once we were back from school.
During festival seasons we would decorate the front yard with beautiful rangoli and I would nag my mom to draw big kolams(அம்மா அந்த அக்கா பாரு எவ்வளவு colour-a கோலம் போடறாங்க,நம்ம வீட்ல மட்டும் எப்ப பாத்தாலும் வெறும் வெள்ள பொடியும் செம்மண் மட்டும் போடுற!)There will be huge competition for getting the cow dung from the nearby maattu kottai and our mom used to wake us up early to go get as much as possible so that we can use it for cleaning the front yard(in tamil we call it சானி மெழுகுதல்), a traditional method followed for maintaining environmental cleanliness.The மாட்டு கொட்டை will be dimly lit and once we enter there, we will look for the cow dung .Getting the cow dung itself was a thrilling experience where I Would be sincerely praying (கடவுளே மாட்டுக்கு தெரியாம எப்படியாவது இந்த சானிய அள்ளிரோணம். எல்லாம் மாடு முட்டிருமோ,யெத்திருமோ அப்படிங்கற பயம் தான் ) and with great caution just like a child trying to light the 1000 vaala, I would stretch my hand as much as possible to reach the cow dung.
All our neighborhood friends would play different kinds of games and would throw the sticky buds from the bushy grass. During our annual exam result declaration we used to get the seeds of kodukkai puli to find out whether we would be promoted or detained.We would simply try to peel the outer skin of the seed to find out if it is white inside or brown and if it is white we will all shout in joy otherwise our comments will be “ஏய் போச்சு டி நீ fail ஆகப்போரே and the person who receives this comment will be in absolute shock.
We used to shake the bougainvillea tree to collect the fruits and catch hold of the silk bug and would try to keep it with us for some time. There were times when we got confused between tadpole and fish and caught them to grow at our place with out our parents’ knowledge.Once, when we came to know that they were frogs every one started laughing!
To conclude i should say that we all had a wonderful child hood.
by NAMITA GAUTHAM
Rewinding cassettes with pencils, getting 5 rupees a day to buy poppins or rol-a-cola, timing your study time to end just in time to catch the latest episode of the Flintstones or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, changing the channel the minute the Saffola boy or the Nirma Aunties came on, shaking a leg to spice girls and having a mini heart attack the minute Nick carter started crooning, Being the cool generation that witnessed a millennium new year’s party (I was grounded that night and cried my eyes out for the injustice thrown upon me by my cruella-de-vil mother) , Growing up in the 90’s was just short of an amusement park ride.
My entire childhood was spent outdoors for most part, where I lay in the sun with mud on my face, repeated the same favourite pair of jeans on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, had no interest in clothes; my mother made me the prettiest ones because I was too cool for shopping and had better things to do in life like collecting slugs and stray puppies to bring back home and hide in my room. I played four sports a day, climbed hills, houses, trees and my maths teacher’s head.
A good day was one where I got a bottle of Goldspot soda after winning a game of badminton against my dad (it’s happened all of thrice only). A better day was when I managed to sneakily buy junk food from the army bar at the pool without having to pay for it. The best day was when I went a day without being caned by my maths teacher because I managed to get a 35 pass mark in the exam.
Today, I live in a city, don’t play a sport anymore, don’t hate clothes anymore and definitely cringe at the thought of Backstreet boys but I’m still a menace, a no-gooder and a well-dressed tom-boy. I still hang out with the boys more, get googly-eyed at the thought of a prank and don’t mind loitering around the footpaths like a homeless ruffian. But take me back to the mountains and it’s like the child just took a long nap and woke up at the sight of the hills.
TO CATCH A THIEF
by RAMA SRINIVASAN
I think I was about 7 years old when this happened. It wasVaralakshmi Nonbu and as was the practice every year we went to our paati (Lakshmimma‘s) house for lunch. I always looked forward to this special lunch as one of the items made and served on this ——————-day was “ ulundu kozhakkatai” which was my all time favourite.( It still is).
It so happened our school annual concert was also on the same day that particular year. We were asked to report at the Rasika Ranjani sabha at 3 pm sharp, when actually, the programme was scheduled to begin at 6 pm ,which it did. Still, this meant I had to leave home at 2 pm. So, my paati being the type she was and her soft corner towards me was such that she packed about a dozen kozhakkatais in a stainless steel dabba . I couldn’t be happier…
My mom had clearly told me to finish my snack around 5 so that it would keep me going till I returned home after the concert.
Now, let me take you to the green room and how we were all excited at the very thought of getting make up done for our faces. One particular aspect of this was wearing the lipstick. It gave us such tremendous joy to have our lips painted with gaudy red lipstick and have rouge brushed on our cheeks…felt so special and important while the make up was in progress that our whole bearing changed for the better. And…that wasn’t all…we were so worried about the lipstick smudging around the lips, that we barely kept our mouth shut fully..So, if drinking water was simply out of the question you can imagine eating solids was a clear no no…
So, my kozhakkatais remained in the dabba untouched…
As we were all lining up behind the stage for our item which was the next, I still had the tiffin in my hand. My teacher saw this and told me to keep it in the green room,so I quickly went to the green room and placed my tiffin on a table so that I could eat it after the program when even we didn’t worry too much about the make up etc..
Our item was over and the next thing I did was to run to the room to lay my hands on the yummy kozhakkatais…I was indeed ravenous by then..
I eagerly opened the box and to my horror found that all kozhakkatais had vanished. I was very upset and was in tears….
When I did ask my teacher who saw me with my tiffin box in my hand,if she knew who had stolen my yummy eats, little did I realize I was setting a thief to catch a thief.
AN ODE TO MANGALAM – OUR MOTHER
by BHANU SHIVRAM
Amma was the matriarch of he MUTHU-GANGA Family Tree until the 10th of March 2018. A hands-on parent to us, her children, from 3rd December, 1965 till she drew her last breath, Amma ingrained in us the value of life. Blessed was she with sons and daughters-in-law, her pillars of strength at all times. Privileged was she to indulge as grand-mom and great grand-mom all through the way. What more could ‘Mangalam’, our Amma, have asked for in her journey of life?
Amma always was a woman of substance who exhibited calmness, contentment, happiness and no matter what curved ball was thrown at her, her life was one of Total Peace as she faced it with ease.
We, her children, grand children and great grand children are lucky to have known an amazing woman “Our Amma.”
NOSTALGIA – MY REGIMENT
by CHANDRA SUBRAMANIAM
I always had the urge to write about my nostalgic days with our Regiment but could never make the start till my husband gave me the confidence. Though a number of memories rush into my mind I am only writing about a few.
I had just got married after the 1971 War when I went with my hubby for my first FAUJI PARTY in one of the neighbouring Unit Officers’ Mess(which I was not aware at that time). I came across a young looking Sikh Gentleman with one star and an Ashoka Chakra on his shoulders. I was not aware of the rank structure and I only noticed one star on the said officer. We conversed on cricket and I argued with him on the many aspects of the game since I had a good knowledge of the game. My hubby later apprised me that he was the Commanding Officer of the Unit. I was shocked to know that he was a senior officer. It made me learn the rank structure so as not to create an embarrassment again.
I was amazed to see how innocent our boys are. One day the Buddy of my husband RV came and asked me,”Oh, Memsaheb, SONA hai tuh dekhao.” Though taken aback, I promptly took out my bangle and showed it to him. He went into splits of laughter and told me “yeh sona nahiho.” It left me aghast because he thought that gold is only gold bars as seen in pictures!!!!!
Being from a civilian background I was completely blank on the Army set up and protocols. I would hear RV almost every day whilst talking on the phone to his Boss with so many tones of “Sir” which amazed me. I must here confess that I was the luckiest lady in the Army to be inducted under the ever loving and affectionate Gaonburi Late Mrs.Surrey and Brig Surrey. They were a gem of a couple. As RV would ever remain busy, I asked Mrs Surrey if RV was a PA to Brig Surrey. She burst out laughing and explained in the best manner she could. However it worked for me as from the next day (at least for few days) RV would come home early!!!!
An incident from the Buddy made me feel how innocent our boys are in spite of their age and maturity. One day I was stunned to see the Buddy with his head inside the Freezer of the Fridge telling me, “Kitna tanda haiho memsahib!” What do I say?? However, it is not so now. The innocence has slowly got erased and rightly too for our boys today stand out as outstanding soldier in all aspects of Army Curriculum.
There are plenty of anxious moments when one is in separated families’ quarters. Responsibilities and maturity come in one’s life very soon. Having experienced it so much I could narrate so many unforgotten tales. However, suffice it to say that nowhere else can we find Bonding and Oneness—much more than seen within your family, kith and kin. My most memorable memories are celebrating all festivals with no qualms about what religion one belongs to and the feeling personified that we are all one.
I would like to conclude with one of the most memorable moments of my Army life, THE GOLDEN JUBILEE. The worry and concern of our beloved Late Gen.SK Pillai was that the cost of the Golden Jubilee Dinner was going overboard and far too high. One day while visiting he asked me, ”Could you do it with all the talented ladies of the Centre?” I told him that I will revert to him in a day or two. I gathered all the ladies and discussed the same. Wow!!What a response. All of them in unison said, ”KyonNahi? We will do it Mrs.RV.” Then followed a series of discussions, ideas and a decision was taken on the Menu. On D-Day the Officer’s Mess Cook House was all hustle and bustle with our Head Cook Prem’s eyes popping out, ”Kya ho raha hai,” but hats off to him and his team who supported us to the core. There was Halla-Gulla to the fore and the chorus by the ladies, ”Yeh merae liyae pyaaz hai,Yeh merae liya tomato hai, koi chuna nahi, Prem kadai kahan hai—–poor Prem and his team, how could they say who took it.IT TURNED OUT TO BE THE MOST TASTY GOURMET DINNER —-many wondered which Five Star hotel was it from?? What more pride could we have had than when the Chief of Army Staff congratulated all of us as we were standing together in identical Regimental Colour Sarees. He commented that he had never seen this before in his life. How proud each of us ladies felt and to add to it we couldn’t have been more prouder when Papa Pande(the oldest Senior Officer living at that time of our Regiment) called all the ladies, complimented us and gave me money to buy gifts for each of the ladies! What a Fatherly Gesture.
KADAM BHARE JA, PECHE HATNA NAHI still echoes in me because that is our Regiment –
APARNA’S HEART BEATS
by PADMINI VISWANATHAN
The School was just on the next street but it was too far for Aparna. It took us over twenty minutes to walk this small distance to the school. The previous year Aparna was younger and so didn’t mind being carried on my hip to the school. But this year – oh no- she was in the first standard – she was too big to allow herself to be carried. Everyday we left for school at a different time – when she had woken, gone through her morning routine, had her medicines and was ready. So it was not feasible to engage a rickshaw. Moreover the distance was too short for a rickshaw ride. I had become an expert at dawdling on the way which is why we took fifteens minutes to walk one street, but this made sure that Aparna was not tired or panting for breath, which she did rather easily, she being a heart patient.
Having arrived at the School gate we slowly proceeded to cross the games field, stopped at the assembly Hall, sat for a few minutes, had a sip of water, stopped at the toilet for a quick visit and finally arrived at the class room.
As we reached the Assembly Hall and sat down that day, Aparna put her hand on her chest and said “Amma”. Tension caused a somersault in the pit of my stomach. I was facing so many crisis situations with this child that fear gripping the pit of my stomach was becoming as common an activity as brushing ones teeth.
“What is it?” I asked. She placed my hand on her chest. Her heart went thudity–thud-thud. What was she trying to say, I wondered, asking a question with my eyes.
“My heart” she said, sounding worried, “Its beating.” I promptly picked up her hand and placed it on my chest and said, “Mine’s beating too.” And she looked relieved.
I had done some quick thinking. She was at the stage when she was beginning to realize that she was not like everyone else and that it had something to do with her heart. Feeling her heart thud in her chest, she’d begun to fear that that was the problem, the fact that her heart was beating.
“Everybody’s heart beats” I explained. “It’s a sign that you’re alive. If a person’s heart stops beating, it means they’re dead.” I went on to tell her a little about the circulatory system and told her that when one indulges in excess physical activity, the heart had to beat faster and louder to cope. “Since you are a bit weak, your heart beats louder even after you’ve walked a bit, which is why we stop here for a small rest everyday,” I concluded.
She thought over it for a minute, kept her hands – one on her chest and one on mine and then she smiled. Her day was right again.
MAN AND THE BEAST
By KRITHIKA SUBRAHMANIAN
Who Am I?
What Lies Within?
There was once a world where people connected within. Individuality over All Else.
Centred and tuned in. So they were interacting with each as individuals – artists, poets, political thinkers, rulers, fighters and labourers. Every man knew who he was and what he would want to be even if they were two different things HE knew it. And he saw god right there inside him. His own core of goodness.
Then came Collective wisdom or the complete lack of it. Society organising thought, drawing boundaries, setting limits, enlarging “vision,” collective opinion, judgement and then Doomsday.
The concept of Goodwill overtook Goodness.
The need to Conform and then the need to Reform.
To celebrate others spirit rather than your own.
Taking ownership of others feelings without feeling yourself.
Voicing others opinions before recognising your inner voice.
From individual to family and family to community and community to society and society to state and now state vs nation.
And the Mine-field of the Mind is now a series of Events created by collective thought and action, stage managed by media in the battlefield of one’s mind.
Distracting oneself from the real challenges with the real beast – the self.
To be aware of your inner voice, to do with conviction what genuinely matters to you .
To contribute in ways you should or would really want to rather than in the easiest way you could for the maximum attention.
Introspection is very tough because you are in focus and you need to face opinions about yourself. A whole lot easier to voice opinions about events, other communities, causes of no particular significance.
And so you distract the mind rather than face those precious moments of truth.
The point is not the inflicted pain or joy of those animals and people in combat but rather “A greater Tamil Identity.”
What about it?
So, if some villages were celebrating it they could have continued to do so without all the fuss if mass hysteria and media doesn’t espouse the activity as a cause and make more of it than needed.
So what was once a man to animal combat then became a communal sport and eventually a festive occasion. But media made sure it became a headline and every person and party steps in to get their mileage.
Now we have everyone’s opinion except the man and his animal.
Maybe they would have been happier in personal combat of spirit where it all started. Maybe not even that yearly ritualistic sport. Just one on one.
Lost in the sea of debate I see individuals distracting themselves from their real issues for a few days with this and then the next “Great Cause”-
“The Tamil Identity.”
What about your own Identity?
Who Am I?
What is Within?
I am an Individual and I am unashamed to say the man and the beast are best left to their own.
Each to their own.
UNABLE TO RESIST – AS I SEE IT.
By KRITHIKA SUBRAHMANIAN
There can be no Romance in Exploitation / Subjugation Of Women or a Community.
It’s Very easy to sit in the comfort of today’s performance arena and spout rhetoric on / celebrating a system that hacked at a woman’s identity and marginalised her existence.
History is what it is and it’s for real. No matter what valiant effort is made to re- chart it, the cross is there to bear. No individual or community can cause social injustice and it is the fallout of collective action or inaction. Sensationalising rather than Sensitising is a horrible trend.
It is definitely avoidable as it only adds to the existing chaos. A deeper understanding and empathy and intelligent approach is warranted. I don’t see the point in reviving for onstage performance, pieces of poetry / song that may have been part of repertoire created for the purpose of a woman soliciting favour. The veracity of whether these were voluntary choices by a female dancer or performed out of social conditioning or out of necessity to earn is something that cannot be verified for sure. The content however is an insight into the intent. Fact remains that a community was subject to much harshness by society, the ill effects of colonisation and the turmoil caused by dismembering a system which worked well at some point to proliferate art as a viable profession. Reviving the position of the Temple Dancer, Woman of the Gods could be done intelligently. These were erudite women who propagated the arts and the essential divinity in them was a product of their scholastic capabilities or even God given talent. Why can that not be the focus rather than the Padam or Javalis created to court men, when they were conditioned and forced into doing it in the years of their decadence? The revival of interest in a community for its artistic, scholastic merit is a productive revival at this point and the transmittal of their repertoire can happen gleaning the content with analysis on how and why the pieces were created / performed.
Glorification of the subjugation Of Women is detrimental to the process of reinstating the community in its original glory.
There is much beauty in art rising above the mundane and many a Devdasi may have performed some of the pieces with a suppressed voice of dissent out of force and not by choice.
Maybe Research Some More before Raising the Ante.
I do not recognise Devadasi as a system but rather as a vibrant community Of Women. Neither do I make comments about the few who people referred to who may have had an identity and freedom. It is the less fortunate amongst them who had issues perpetrated against them and who were marginalised that need to be viewed as victims of societal change. I do believe in plurality of expressionism in dance and dance theatre. However the use of songs as in Javalis, Padams /Poetry written, taught to and performed by young girls even in historical context, if in any situation of solicitous nature may be pushing it even in the name of art. If I am faulted for being an asexual intellectual for being empathetic to the young girls belonging to the community who may have been ostracised or refused opportunities to pursue their own individualistic aspirations then so be it.
Silence is Powerful and the Language Of Peace.
No matter what, it Rises above the Chaos
The Biggest Hurdles, the Meanest Threats and most Hurtful Wrongdoings against me I have overcome by Silence-
LIFE’S FINEST LESSONS….WITH OUR DRAMA QUEEN GRANDMA!
By BHANU RAMASWAMY
Don’t you wish you had a single childhood memory that you could blow up into a bubble and live inside forever?
My own memory bubble would be of the hugely interesting and fun times I had with my siblings and numerous cousins in our grandparents’ large home in Madras. Warm recollections of an ancient kitchen with shelves of gleaming stainless steel pots and pans with its heady, deliciously inviting aroma of food, endless fun and constant laughter. Nine little boys and girls of various sizes, sitting crosslegged around this formidable figure (our PATI) in the centre, telling an exciting story as she deals out little balls of mashed rice and vegetables in each outstretched hand. Wide eyed with wonder and amusement, we gulp the morsel down quickly and eagerly await the next episode of the tale that holds us spellbound with attention!
Our Pati was simply the world’s greatest storyteller. A one man theatre, actress par excellence, Pati brought to life the glory of the epics, The Ramayana and The Mahabharatha. She took on the part of each protagonist by turn, acting out the roles with a change in voice, tenor, decibel levels and facial expressions that had us riveted – in shock and awe! When the evil Ravana ran away with Sita, the littlest ones would weep sadly. Quickly transforming herself as the dutiful Hanuman, she would leap off to rescue Sita and we would all clap wildly with joy. Swift arrows would fly here, there and everywhere and with a voice booming one instant and demure and gentle the next, the demons were all vanquished!
Oh! The drama on the battlefields of Kurukshetra! The blowing of conch shells and the trumpeting of elephants all aligned for war – how vividly she brought it all to life! She was the sorrowful Arjuna one moment, the divine Krishna offering soulful advice the next. And how we cheered lustily when the good guys did away with the bad guys!
Then there were the humorous escapades of Tenali Rama, or the wonderful tales from the Panchatantra. Mimicking quirky characters, singing little ditties that she made up herself, we were in total enthral, and distracted enough to gobble up whatever she put into our wee hands, even that awful bitter gourd sambar that we absolutely detested. Crafty old Pati!
How fortunate we were to enjoy so many such precious evenings with Pati, with her tall tales and high drama. Yet there were lessons learnt from every one of those memorable story sessions. About Honesty, Doing One’s Duty and the Rewards of Hard Work. About Gratitude and Kindness, Compassion and Generosity. That Good always triumphed over Evil. That no matter what, it’s more important to be a good human being first.
As naïve little children, we didn’t realize we were making beautiful memories then. All we knew was that we were having enormous fun with our dearest Drama Queen Pati!
When I look back now, it was also about discipline, unconditional love and good bonding,
And most important of all…priceless human values.
THE BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT OF MY LIFE
By PADMINI VISWANATHAN
When one talks of the biggest achievement in one’s life, everyone will automatically say that taking care of Aparna is my biggest achievement. But I don’t agree on that because one doesn’t categorise what one does naturally from motherly love an achievement. That is just an unconscious outpouring of the soul. It is the joy of seeing a deep bond develop, not only between her and her siblings but with their spouses as well. This leaves you relieved that she will be well looked after and cared for after Ganga’s (my husband) and my time. Neither is looking after my ma-in-law in hospital or nursing Raman thatha, my pa-in-law till the end or taking care of Radha, my mother, a great achievement. What would have to be your biggest achievement is something that you are bad at or that you find very difficult to do but that you fight, overcome and finally succeed.
I realized that I had a tremendous capacity to prevent knowledge from entering my brain however intelligent (or intelligent-looking as my brother Murali put it) I was. Take for example the school prayer in P S Senior where the kids were studying. I went in every day for almost nine years, heard the “Mangalam di shathuno” prayer and went back home whistling the tune. But, I never let (or is it allowed) my mind even dwell on the words once. Finally when we had to start a prayer for the tiny tots in our pre-kg class, I had to beg Ganga Miss to leave the “Mangalam di shathuno” part and only say the “yaakundenduthu shara hara davala” part which was dinned into my head when I was a kid which I would reel off hurriedly before leaving for school.
If you talk of something tough to deal with, there was maths. If they hadn’t introduced optional Biology when in the 11th standard, like Rani Mukherjee said in the movie Black – “What you all took 20 years to do – become graduates, I have taken 40 years to achieve” – I would most probably still be in the 10th standard or even demoted to the 5th because last year I realised that I can’t cope with my grand daughter Sanchita’s maths. We were doing three digit division sums together and despite our best efforts were landing up with five digit answers. Finally we had to appeal to Samyukt for help and he hooted with laughter saying “Paati, how can you subtract or divide and end up with more? They’re basically ‘take-away’ sums, aren’t they?” “That’s what we can’t understand, silly” I said, exasperated. “Silly? Who, me?” he asked grinning and worked out the sum for us while the two of us looked on shamefacedly.
Whoever on earth invented grammar? Wasn’t it enough that they invented English and that we spoke and wrote it well? But no, not stopping with nouns nd verbs, they had to strain your head with adverbs, and conjunctions and injuncs and god alone knows what. When you have the word ‘particle’ in the language, why must you go and muddle it up with ‘participle’ which means a load of other things but not ‘particle’ or even ‘participate?’ What is a ‘Parenthesis?’ I would think they want you to write a thesis on your parents. But no! It’s a punctuation mark. And ‘braces’ are what you put on children’ teeth, for heaven’s sake! But apparently you punctuate sentences with them too! When I see the word ‘ellipse’ I think that the person has either mis-spelt ‘eclipse’ or is trying to use some form of the word ‘elliptical’. There again I display my inherent ignorance of the more subtle nuances of grammar. And the odd part was that everyone scored high marks in grammar and less in Composition. Now I, I scored high marks in Composition. Wasn’t that proof enough that I had mastery over the language? Did I have to kill myself over grammar too? This is why I wrote such good English but got marks only in the 50s.
When a group of us started going to the Karpagavalli Kalanilayam, a very, very old school which now taught underprivileged children with Govt. aid, the Principal and Management were quite happy for us to do some Spoken English with the 5th and 6th students after school hours. The kids were happy because the classes were fun. We incorporated a lot of word games, did play acting and I even taught them some English songs. But as the academic year came to an end, the Management felt that we should be used to coach the students who were going in for their public exams. The students wanted to be taught the lesson on ‘Gerund.’ Ohmegad! WhatwasIgoingtodo? I had never even heard the term before. If only one of the others were there, I would have happily thrust the job on them. But unfortunately, every one of them was away on some other family commitment. So I picked up Messrs Wren and Martin and delved seriously into the topic. One thing to be said about aging, your patience and powers of comprehension increase even though your memory levels are on the wane. So I diligently worked on the lesson, understood it, figured out in my mind how to explain it to these children using Tamil along with English, made a set of exercises and went to class armed with Xerox copies of the exercises for all the children. The class took longer than the usual time but even the usual stragglers remained glued to their seats and finished their exercises. My moment of joy came when they all crowded around me in the end and said that this was the best ever lesson they had enjoyed in their whole school life. I was filled with an immense sense of achievement. And now when I wanted to write about it, I couldn’t for the life of me remember whether it was Genome, or Gerome, or Jerome. Remember what I just said about advancing years and memory?
THIRD PART INSURANCE CLAIMS ON ROAD ACCIDENTS
By V. SRINIVASAN
To those unfortunate enough to be a victim of another driver’s/rider’s carelessness and negligent driving, my sympathy goes out to you. Having been a victim of one such accident (this is apart from the regular quota of little bumps, dents and innumerable scratches your vehicle collects on your routine outings), third party damage recovery for small damages – by which I mean a visible dent in your car or a head light or tail light cluster breaking – is nearly impossible (as my experience here in Bangalore turned out) as one will most likely not have the time or the courage to go through with this tedious process. The tragedy is even if a very determined soul, with plenty of time in hand is willing to risk adding insult and further injury to their already damaged car or bike, they can never be sure that there will be gold at the end of the rainbow. Let me explain this somewhat confusing statement.
Imagine a situation where you are peacefully driving along following the rules. You stop at an intersection and are waiting for the signal to turn green. Suddenly you hear a big thud, get violently jolted. You look around frantically and realize that someone has hit you from behind. The driver of the car that hit you comes around and says he is sorry, etc. He gives you the copy of his comprehensive insurance policy asking you to claim the damages from them and his troubles are over and yours begin.
You call the insurance company. On the Nth attempt an indifferent voice tells you to file a police complaint and bring them the order from the court to pay damages. Not losing heart yet, you go to the traffic police station and the policeman on duty there tells you to give a complaint in writing. So far, so good. But here comes the crusher! He also tells you to leave the car behind in the parking outside (there is no parking space in the cop house). You protest you can’t do that, as you need your car and all it needs is for the dents and the bumper to be fixed. He looks at you as some one would at an ignoramus and asks, “But how will the RTO vehicle inspector inspect the damage to your car?” You say sounding hopefull, “I will bring the vehicle when he is coming here by fixing an appointment.” He gives you a pitying look and says, “There is no specified time for his visit. In any case, once you have given a written complaint the vehicle can’t be driven.” You look helplessly at the row of bikes and cars, parked there out in the street. They seem totally beyond repair and seem to have come to their final resting place. You are losing all hopes of making any claim by the minute. You are not about to leave a perfectly good car to the tender mercies of that roadside parking and leave it unguarded on open season basis. You gather courage and ask the policeman, “How long does this process take?” He gives you an encouraging smile and says, “Not very long from one month to three months. The RTO inspector will send the report to the court with his recommendation for the necessary repairs. After that the court will pass the order for the insurance company to pay. Then you can take the car to the garage they specify and get it repaired to the extent they have recommended. Anything over and above this will be to your account. This is apart from the excess waiver of Rs 500 that you have to pay anyway.” Then in a knowing aside says, “He can be made to come sooner.” The meaning of this would be obvious to any man of the world!
Then very helpfully he suggests that I should get it repaired by myself and claim it from my own insurance company. I thought this was the best advice I could get and did as the wise policeman had suggested. In all fairness I must say I contacted the owner of the car that caused the damage and the gentleman that he was, he paid 50% of the cost of the repairs. But how does one choose a gentleman to have an accident with every time?!
Now I wonder, how many minor third party claims the insurance companies settle or rather not settle. They must make a killing from all the unclaimed minor third party damages from people who give up in sheer frustration. Even when one files a claim to his own insurance firm in a case like the one narrated above, they still make money by cutting off the no claim bonus from the next premium. So it’s head they win and tails you lose!
Elsewhere abroad, in the event of an accident the police come to the spot and inspect the scene and adjudicate on the spot. They give their approval to have the vehicle repaired and clearly mention whose fault caused the accident. It is mandatory for that person’s insurance company to pay for the repairs of the vehicle unconditionally. As a matter of fact the better workshops will not accept any vehicle for repair of damages caused by an obvious accident without a police clearance certificate, as there could be third party damages unknown to them. Justice is fair and swift and one is not harassed in such incidents.
Moral of the Story:
DO NOT HAVE AN ACCIDENT. EVEN A THIRD PARTY ONE!!!
THE JOYS(?) OF DRIVING
Normally I like driving. The sense of power and control that I get when driving a car – a car kept in good repair especially – gives me a high. But to my dismay this liking is quickly disappearing. If it were put to vote amongst those who drive in our fair city the Nays( to drive in most Indian metros ) would have it with no challenge at all. Driving in Bangalore is no exception. When I leave the parking from my apartment complex, all I need to do is to drive 25 metres, whence begins an obstacle course fit to test the skills the driver and the suspension and shock absorbers of the vehicle.
First the speed breakers! The humps come in a variety of shapes and sizes and a large number of them are not painted and are quite invisible. The transport department officials put the daily figure of vehicle registration between 600 and 700! With the road infrastructure hardly being able to keep pace with this kind of proliferation, it does not require the genius of any traffic expert to predict large daily doses of road congestion. The average speed in the city is around 12 to 15 Km per hour. Anyway the innumerable potholes and the heavy traffic congestion make the humps superfluous. But the powers that raise these humps cannot bear to see a stretch of long good road and will make sure your ride is bumpy with a series of these wretched humps. So if the potholes don’t get you, the humps will!
Then there are the black and yellow bumblebees and the recent addition of the green hornets. The Autorickshaw! The worthies who drive autorickshaws have a thumb rule. If the gap in the traffic can accommodate the front wheel of the auto, the rest is an automatic fit! They whine and snarl through the traffic, unmindful of any traffic – jockeying for space, competing irrespective of the size and speed of the other vehicles on the road. And like the indestructible cockroach, which has outlived the Jurassic giants, they will outlive Armageddon and will continue to harass the city’s traffic.
The city roads are getting better and most main roads have become dual carriageways. But do we deserve them? It’s a most common sight to see on coming traffic – from a bicycles to heavy trucks and busses – on the wrong side of the dual carriage way. Obviously it is considered unnecessary to travel a few hundred metres upstream direction of your destination to make a U turn. It’s much easier to drive along the side of the road and make a dash across the road in the first break one finds on the road. Of course the unwary driver who is peacefully driving on his, the legitimate side of the road has to be alert all the time to these road demons. One-way streets and no entry signs fare no better and get the same treatment. Many Bangalore drivers show great attitude in getting ahead. Their enthusiasm is especially in evidence while halted at a traffic signal. Many show no respect for the colour red and just keep going with out a break. If you are a driver who is not colour blind and respect the red light and stop at a traffic signal, you are almost certain to hear impatient honking from behind, harrasing you and urging you to get a move on.
It is not unusual to see a bovine placidly chewing on its hastily consumed meal while leisurely resting right in the middle of a busy road. The traffic swerves and swings around it and no one thinks of chasing the creature to the side of the road. No, it’s no pleasure driving in this city.
By PRABHA SRIDEVAN
I am at that age when sleep is like Scarlet Pimpernel (God! That reference is enough to slot me and more is to follow). “I seek it here I seek it there….. that demmed elusive sleep.” So I get up at unearthly hours and I do the Guardian crossword. “Do” means this. Open the page on my smart phone, try a bit. Anagrams come easier to me. Then I shamelessly try all kinds of letters, press “Check” and sometimes “Reveal.” After a while I am finished. Some days I really “ do“ the crosswords and can actually parse the answers. Then there is a blog called Fifteen squared which explains the answers, the regulars there are ‘copmus’ and ‘muffin’ and ‘Julie in Australia’ and many others, They have now become my friends ( in my mind) but I don’t even peep a squeak. I am what could be called “a silent bystander” not the kibitzer. Recently there was a discussion at Fifteen squared about a particular word used with a different meaning in Australia. Then one said nowadays everyone says ‘store’ and not ‘shop,’ and I wondered why we so easily succumb to the American usage. That brings me to my pet peeves “I am good” and “my bad.” Now for a bit of ‘down memory lane.’ I have nieces and nephews in USA and when they were kids they would visit India and stay with us for 3 weeks. At the end of one such stay, my niece ( then 6 years old) returned pronouncing the ‘a’ in bath room like the ‘a’ in watch, and my son ( ditto age) was pronouncing it like cat.
I wander, ..my age. I’ll get back to my track.
“How are you?” is a common greeting. If you are fine, I mean no ailments and all, you say you are fine. But if you have arthritic pain( I do now) or something, you inflict the greeter with unwanted details of your visit to the doctor, the alternative medicine you are trying. But what is this “I am good?” It is on the tip of my tongue to say,”Oh I thought you were bad,” or “I always knew you were good.” But I know this is an Americanism. Is it not enough that we have imported KFC, MCd, should we import the un-grammatic Usage as well? I can understand if my grandniece in Atlanta, Georgia says “I am good Paatti.” She does not know better. But our Thaathas and Paattis now traipse across the Atlantic, return after their duty visit to USA, saying “I am good” and my blood boils, smoke comes from my ears. Why? To sing like Major Sundarrajan “Adu en en nanbane?”
If this is bad, “my bad“ is worse. Bad is an adjective, as in a bad minister in the Ambulimama stories. It is not a noun. I grew up on Wren and Martin. The first time I heard it, I thought my ears were failing me like my knees.
“What did you say?” I asked.
Then why can’t you say my mistake?( My inner voice grumbled)
I am reading Thich Nhat Hahn. When a Thaatha/ Paatti returning from USA tells me “My Bad” next time, I will be mindfully calm, smile and forgive them. If I don’t it’s my…….( Don’t say it.)
DAUGHTER OF IC 25288 W
By NAMITA GAUTHAM
I walked into my dad’s room at 12 in the night and woke him up to ask, “Let’s say I quit work tomorrow, will you support me?” In his signature style, he replied, “Listen to me you goofy, financially, I won’t give you a penny, you’re on your own. But when you’re upset and crying, I can go and buy you a box of tissues and a chocolate of which I get 50 per cent.” That’s how my family gets my back, by not really endowing me with materialistic support but by pushing me ahead a bit harder, on my own two left feet.
That confirmed, I decided I’m going to take a wee stop to come above the surface, breathe a bit, float in still waters for a while before I sink my head in again and go at it. Maybe I’ll go for a swim to clear my head and just stare up at the skies. Maybe I’ll dive right in. I love the possibilities and the idea of learning how to swim again. I can’t fly yet, but swimming is the next best thing.
I Danced, for nights in a row. Feeling elated, sharing in his joy, my best friend.
I saw the bride dance, pulling her dad on to the dance floor, as tears rolled down her cheeks, so did they mine, for maybe I can never have that. A last dance with my main man.
SHE IS HER FATHER’S DAUGHTER. SHE IS HER FATHER’S SON.
My last few years have flown by in a whizz, and I haven’t stopped to look around much, perchance stopped, only to think alone and spend time with me. My father’s last few years too have flown by in a whizz and today I stopped to look around and spend time with him, only to realise he’s gotten so old. When did my father, the young, smart, fit, army man, get so fragile. He who used to lead the parade, sword in hand. He now walks with a wobbly limp, stick in hand.
How did the once stoic and blatant man who yelled orders to the battalion become so quiet that I cannot even hear him mumble.
Today I took dad to the barber. A filthy little shop near home, complete with the mess of unswept hair shavings on the floor, grimy groomers in badly coloured hair and no inclination for hygiene and new blades. And in the filth, I found a beautiful moment. I watched my father, wrinkly and shabby, propped onto the chair, transform into a clean shaven, well groomed officer that he once was. It didn’t mater that his clothes were unkempt or that his track pants were being worn outside the boundaries of our home, what mattered was how I felt, being his daughter. What mattered was how the head barber said to him, daughters are better than sons. They take care of fahers. I wanted to blurt out, but I am his son. Instead I settled for finally being his daughter. Strong like he wanted me to be.
My father has never told me that I am a girl, nor did he wat me to know that like a judgement or a definition. As far as he was concerned, I was a neutral candidate in his home army. My mom and I were to be strong, independent and commando like. I was to be able to lift weights, fire guns, walk miles and complete obstacle courses. I was discouraged from getting fat and lazy and discouraged from getting skinny and weak. He wouldn’t talk to me like a man would talk to a girl, but instead like he would talk to a reporting soldier, albeit one close to his heart. He was my friend, my comrade of whom I was allowed to be critical of his flaws I saw, as well as his morals. My father has been a huge impact on who I am as a person, clearly half the impact. The stronger half, the half that screams and says, I can do anything. No matter that I have boobs and long hair and will in the course of my life be told otherwise. I can do anything, no matter that I am your daughter, I am too your son.
DELUGE OF DECEMBER 2015
It was 12 noon on Tuesday, 1st December 2015. I could sense a flutter in the office at every desk. Chanced to peep in quickly to find out that it was an official e-communiqué from the HR Desk, announcing the grim situation of the rains and advising employees to sign out and reach home safe. Not realizing the imminent disaster and hoping to be back at work the very next day, I gleefully shut off my workstation like a school boy and left only to realize later that the whole week was to be washed off by the ruthless rains. Till Tuesday night, I and my family were painfully witnessing the plight of people on TV, leaving their homes to safe places without bothering to take any of their belongings. The very next day, our predicament was still worse, with water surrounding our house and neighbourhood to the level of my first floor balcony and going up every second at a threatening speed. Added to the agony, the scarce boat service was pressed into service very late and the entire communication network went down. It was like ‘Venice-built-overnight’ with only water everywhere but only a few drops in store to drink. Only the previous day, I had moved a few things in the ground floor to the overhead storage area in the ground floor itself but that was not enough. Later we came to know that it was not only because of the continuous onslaught of rain alone but complemented by opening of one of the city’s biggest lakes hurriedly.
All said, it was a perfect ‘May Day in December’ for us at Kotturpuram. Finally on Thursday morning, (3rd December 2015) my neighbour had to tie a piece of clothe to a long pole, torch it and wave it to convey our distress. Luckily, a police man on duty at a distance noticed it and quickly alerted a few fishermen who came to the rescue of many people who were stranded like us. Our entire family including my two little daughters stepped onto the boat from the first floor balcony and leave the place in utter disbelief that we had nothing but the clothes we had on us. In a hop-on-and-hop-off style, we managed to reach my father-in-law’s place at Guduvancherry where the flood situation was not that bad.
After more than a week, we hesitantly moved back to our rain-ravaged house. Life has resumed but the rhythm of love and laughter at the place is yet to be recomposed, with relief material from friends slowly pouring in. The city is limping back to normalcy with the help of large corporates, NGOs, Volunteers etc who were slugging it out throughout with the only objective of reaching help to maximum extent possible. Now Chennai music festival also has kicked off on a racy note. The rain and the ruins also revealed to me that I have quite a lot of friends and well-wishers with me who have vouched their support to me and my family 100% in my rehabilitation phase.
Every day, someone or the other keep calling me and asking me if I require any assistance and telling me repeatedly to feel free to ask anything. All said, the nightmare will take quite some time to wane out of our memories. Perhaps, my children will live longer to share the painful anecdotes with their grand children, but it would be certainly a ‘hard to believe story’ for them.
MY FRIEND ‘SAM’
This friend of mine – I and all my people call him ‘Sam’. Short and sweet and somehow, in consonance with the name, he has been such a ‘pally-pally’ personality to all the age groups in my family – right from toddlers to seniors. Younger to me by four years, but wiser than me and many in my circle by several years, his very presence every day with a large smile, used to make us feel comfortable in all situations. I first bumped into him during a cricket match and vividly remember it all started with a furious fight over some wrong umpiring decision. We aborted the match half way and dutifully continued the grudge for some months. As the saying goes, “hatred is the cousin of love”, I realized that the mistake was squarely on me but the damned ego would not permit me to budge slightly and offer him a warm handshake. Luckily, the remote friendship mechanism saw him coming to me suddenly to apologize and the friendship journey is now 30 years+, during which period, he has never attempted once to point out that it was my fault. So many occasions later vouched for his truly large heart, clarity of thought, unforced commitment, love, care & understanding and the readiness to lend support in all possible ways at all times. Marriage and circumventions bring in sea changes in all our lives in quick time and unfortunately, the current is so heavy that you are left with little time to tide against the force. He was by my side during happy occasions in my family and more so, during tough times and sad events. In return, I had the fortune of helping him in his career plans and mediate with his parents on his marriage (being a Christian, he fell in love with a South Indian Iyer Girl) and after 10 years of romancing, he married his girl friend and they are now happily settled in Minnesota, USA. When the winter sets in, I happily rewind my memories of accompanying him to the Cathedral for the midnight service, sharing the joy of giving things and the spirit of festivity all over. Starting from Dec 15, our house celebrates Christmas till Jan 15 and though we are thousands of miles and oceans away, togetherness is distinctly felt in our hearts through the chill air and lilting carols during this sweet phase of Christmas followed by New Year. I would strongly deny the saying “Familiarity breeds contempt”’ Sam can never be so to me and my family at any point in time.
THE END OF INNOCENCE
It was back to school for our final two years after our vacation. We were the first batch that was called Plus Two. To me, it was the beginning of the end of our innocence. The script unfolded at Assembly on the first day of our new academic year in Chennai’s hot and sultry June.
My eyes wandered to the parallel row contemplating how quickly the wee ones in my class had become young ladies during the brief summer holidays. My introspection regarding their growth hormones was abruptly interrupted when a frail young thing swayed, first to the left, then right, before she swooned right next to me, between our rows.
I screamed “Miss!!!” which interrupted the Principal’s monotonous speech. All heads turned to this unexpected distraction. I knelt beside the swooned lassie, who turned out to be M.N.Arathi, my classmate since the fifth standard. M.N stood for her father’s name, Madhavan Nair, but we called her “Mal-Nutrition” Arathi.
Our PT sir reached us soon with a water bottle and revived Arathi. I hardly noticed anything then except that I was holding a woman in my arms for the first time.
Two months was all it took to end my fifteen years of innocence. I was going to school, rain or shine, just to be around her. The school walls carried our names, a graffiti of an asymmetric heart with our initials on it.
Our exaggerated closeness eventually caught the attention of our teachers. Ambika Miss, our Biology teacher, once made us stand outside the classroom for staring into each other’s eyes adoringly and playing “Who blinks first?” in her class.
Time flew. Biology Practical Board examination was underway. I knew Arathi dreaded dissection.I saw her fumble with her scalpels and her eyes found mine, pleading. However, I worked like a surgeon and swiftly completed the task, a precise post-mortem of the amphibian.
I wrote on my nameplate, “Roll number 1407”, which was Arathi’s number. In the pretext of dropping my gloves into the trash-can adjacent to Arathi’s table, I swapped our specimens, mine and Arathi’s, in a split second.
Thirty years later, at our school reunion, the now-retired Ambika Miss was narrating an incident that happened with one of her favourite students during the practical board examinations.
“I clearly remember that day”, she said to the gathered alumni, “When Ranjit’s male frog specimen, dead and dissected, somehow hopped and found its way onto Arathi’s table and the female frog that was assigned to Arathi crawled into Ranjit’s hands, quite determined to fall apart only in his arms.”
Then she looked at me and said, “Maybe I wouldn’t present you as a model student to the next generation, but what you did selflessly for someone who you cared for, risking everything, did move me.Teachers know everything. Barring you for the act would have been cruel. We also assess the intent and not just the results. God Bless you, Children!”
MY TEACHER, à MENTOR, à COUNSEL, à GUIDE – NOW MY STUDENT ! BY RAGZ
Parthasarathy Iyengar, my teacher for the class (VII Std & VIII Std), English & Maths – a tall lanky man, steely built, always clad in white khader dhoti, a long white khader jubba (long enough to make us crookedly wonder why he should ever need a dhoti), and a white towel hanging on the right shoulder, which we have never seen him use. The very name used to send an uneasy chill up our spines for no reason as quite a few of us were obedient, disciplined, occupying the front two rows and were always among the top ten in the class featuring in a staggered manner, besides volunteering to run errands for the teacher, so that we can loosen our nerves a bit for some time away from him. His icy stare with the long and strong hands folded backwards, will make a hunting lion buckle down and beat a hasty retreat. He had this habit of carrying a long umbrella throughout the year and without this, we sometimes even savored ourselves to the luxury of hoping that he might sign off early on that day. The fact of course, was that he has given it for some repairs on the way, to collect it back in the evening.
In my school days, the 3 vacations (after the quarterly, half-yearly and annual exams) used to be very electrifying, albeit the ordeal of writing answers for all the questions in each subject and submitting it promptly on the reopening day. We used to occupy the streets from 9am to 1pm, for all sorts of games, scurry home for lunch and some indoor games till 4pm, again from 4 to 7 on the play ground for some more games and return home totally drained to even help ourselves to our dinner. Parents used to make us sit for some time every day in between and tackle the holiday homework in such a way that we do not become pale and jittery on the last day of our holidays. During one such holiday, I had to rush through the process and in spite of that, a huge portion of the Maths paper was still incomplete. Finally, I decided to leave a few blank pages, write the last answer, present the last page to the teacher for his signature along with other open notebooks. When I met him last year, I collected myself to boldly disclose this fact and all that he could do was a hearty laugh and a mock knuckle punch in the air.
His non-detail classes turned us spell-bound as he used to transform himself into the lead character in the story and live it before us. We had to shake ourselves to reality at the chime of the period bell.
I have the habit of travelling to this small town once a year, wander around my school area, play ground, the houses we lived in, the tank bund, temples etc and during one such trip two years back, I stepped on an unexpected clue and followed it to my teacher’s small apartment. Meeting after more than three decades, I had to declare my bona fides, help him around with his chores, take him out for lunch, dinner, a stroll and before leaving, for a small photo-shoot in a nearby studio. He has two sons – one settled in the UK and the other in Mumbai. He is a widower now and has turned down the school’s offer to extend his services. As an “all-weather campaigner” he carries himself with grit, but I have forcibly managed to grab hold of a few of his affairs and manage it for him since the last two years. You can imagine how happy I am now, calling the shots and the teacher at the receiving end, dancing to my tunes. The benevolently autocratic teacher, the very thought of whom once made me chill and uncomfortable, has now become my obedient student. Everything is cyclical I guess!