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Posted in Musings

Nirvana

Catharsis is Nirvana.

Cave drawings. Parchments heavy with emotion. Journals soaked in pale ink and vivid memories. An envelope braving the world in search of another. Splashes of paint rebelling against grey walls.

Black letters on a white screen spilling from my fingertips.

Posted in Anecdotes

Pink And Proud

It has been so long since I last posted something that I have actually been framing and editing the opening sentence for a full ten minutes now, till it finally transformed into this. Nothing spectacular, I know. These fingertips are badly in need of inspiration.

It has been exactly a month since I wrote something other than research proposals or official letters. Being back at college is proving to rain on my literary parade. But I can’t quite blame the curriculum for it; it’s me of course. Old habits die hard and laziness is immortal. It’s just so easy and convenient to sit back against a cushion, whip out one’s phone and text the people you -wait for it! – spent the entire day with. So unnecessary, but such an integral part of one’s life these days..

Today.. umm wait. I realise I effectively procrastinated the post so well that it’s actually yesterday. So yesterday, the 19th of April, I came to know through a WhatsApp forward, is the World Cycling Day. Yoo-hoo!! Here is to eco friendly and healthy transportation! Bikers unite!!! 

I was a late bloomer in the cycling scenario and learned to bike quite late. I am reminded of the first time I attempted the antic of riding without side wheels. I was in my 5th grade and it was my friend’s cycle and the road leading up to her house used to be a precarious fall. It either levelled out as I grew or my visual capabilities recovered from imaginative hyperbolic perceptions. Either way, it doesn’t seem as notorious now as it did then. Anyway, I clearly remember screaming in horror as a coconut tree came rushing toward me. Thanks to the impact, the bike was broken and I stayed away from the similar adventures till I got a cycle of my own for the first time in 8th grade. 

My dreams of riding with abandon were soon put to rest as a local toddy shop opened right across my designated cycling route. Mother felt it inappropriate and unsafe for a young girl to bike in the area where drunken hooligans aka potential molesters loitered. The other route was all uphill – not exactly the average weakling’s cuppa tea. So that too came to a premature end.

Childhood whims are like one’s first love, you never quite get over them. Which is probably why, the moment I stepped inside the sprawling campus with its wide shady lanes, I knew I had my opportunity at long last!

Now, 12 years down the line, I am the proud owner of another bike. It did take a couple of weeks for my atrophied thigh muscles to get used to the climb, but they don’t complain as much now. 

The colour does make me cringe, but apparently ladies’ cycles only come in pink and lavendar in this town. Oh well. At least it stands out among the fleet of sober scooters and motorcycles!

Posted in Verses

Siron

I had a chance encounter 

With a word today.

A name, an acquaintance of old,

Siron.

Is it C-ron or CY-ron?

In all those years when I frequented the joint,

I never cared for how it sounded in my head,

But now I do.

S-I-R-O-N was all it was,

Bright painted letters

Above the single dingy room,

With cheap chairs 

And dusty corners

That promised milkshakes and ice creams

At rates we could afford;

And so it was

That a shoddy little place,

Grew into a horde of memories –

Haven for hot days,

Birthday treats,

Risque solitude

And covert first dates;

Sweet days tasting of

Thick mango shakes in summer

Choco deluxe in autumn 

With cutlets and rolls

And watered down sauce;

.

I had a chance encounter 

With five letters today

And together they spelt out

Mangoes,

Summer evenings,

Friendship

And love.

Posted in Musings

Misplaced Sentiments

We were a group of five, three Tamilians, a Bengali and a Keralite, sharing lunch and a frivolous chat when the casual conversation veered towards the varied cultural differences and similarities across the expanse of our country. Someone put in a word about how each state in India has an identity of its own and how, even Kerala and Tamil Nadu are different in so many ways, even though they cuddle together at the bottom of the map. I remarked how true that is, and indeed that Kerala has a lot more in common with the geographically distant West Bengal than with Tamil Nadu.

And all of a sudden, the discussion turned into a debate.

I still have no clue why my statement should have provoked them as it did. I did not intend to mean that TN is inferior in any way, just that things are different. Comparisons have always been drawn between Kerala and West Bengal with respect to popular culture, the kind of movies made, the high regard for Communist ideologies in the political set up and even the crazy football fanship in a country where every other state adores cricket. That is all I meant to put across. But somehow the innocent comment was conjured to be an attack on their cultural integrity and mocked to be a sign of how one always disregards one’s neighbours and worships distant lands.

Oh boy.

I found it rather ironic in retrospect that the Bengali and myself were on one side of the ensuing argument even as they vehemently opposed our attempts at clarification.

This is not the first time I’ve come across such incidents either. Certain opinions are lost in translation across borders, even if we happen to be speaking the same language. Inherent insecurities are projected as an overt need to stand up and shout down ideas, and many a time remarks are taken out of context and interpreted in ways deemed right. 

Maybe a lot of the violence and hatred that breed among us is the result of ill communication, and perhaps our own perceptions of how we are being perceived. If I were to remark someone is dusky, it becomes an insult, if I happen to hail from a place where the majority have a fair complexion. Dark becomes less of an adjective and more of a derogation based on who says it. Abstract theories define our sense of right and wrong, and indignation sprouts from simple matters.

I’d say patriotism and belonging are often separatist barriers that prevent us from viewing the big picture. How beautiful the world would be if diversity were embraced as the crux of existence, and not some precious aftermath of human interference that needs to be protected and fought for. 

Posted in Verses

What You Feel Like

You feel like my grey pajamas.

Old, worn

With the memory of many a day

Curled up in comfort;

You feel like warmth

On winter nights.

You feel like the sea breeze

That traverses long miles

To cool my brow

Under the sweltering sun;

You are the salty tinge 

That rests on my lips.

You feel like the mighty mountains 

That watch over me 

From a distance,

And yet I need only turn 

To know it’s there;

The misty hills 

On my bare landscape.

You feel like dog-eared pages,

Like musty souvenirs,

Like inky letters on scrapbooks,

Like the lyrics rolling off my tongue,

Like ancient dreams,

Re-runs of childhood whims,

Like the smell of fresh rain

And coffee and the earth;

Yes,

You feel like home.

💕

Posted in Verses

The Shore I Seek

You claim to love the sea

And yet fail to see the restless waves

Of turmoil

That toss my heart;

I grope at the shore,

Again and again,

For a fast hold 

But am cast away by insecurities

While need draws me close

Fear drives me away,

And forever I crash and recede..

Why can’t you see

All I want

Is to know calm and clarity,

Know a love that does not drain me

Of all I am..

Why can’t you see

Sweetheart

That the shore I seek

Is you?

Posted in Anecdotes

Mangroves For Two

Everything gets a little better with a good friend by your side. 

My last day of monitoring was around the region of Chidambaram in Cuddalore. Amigo SR, a monitor himself, happened to be free that day, so I decided to take him along with me. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the work progressed easier with his help; we went about in buses where I normally would have relied on taxis, and he proved to be more street smart that I had given him credit for.

The official work was done by noon. The last school I visited was in the village of Killai, a few kilometres way from the Pichavaram Ecotourism Centre. To have come all the way there and to return without checking it out would be rather dumb, so we made our way there.

An auto rickshaw dropped us off at the site. Pichavaram is known for its mangrove forests, one of the three prominent ones in India. The other two are in West Bengal and the Andaman Islands. 

Row boats and motor boats can be hired by the hour, and according to the number of people visiting, and are rated at fair prices accordingly. It ranged from a one hour row boat ride for two that cost you 185 rupees (~3 dollars) to a 6 hour motor boat ride which included a trip to the Pichavaram Beach thrown in, rated at around 2500 rupees. We settled for the former being pressed for time, and proceeded to find a place to lunch first.

Only a snack bar existed within the complex, so we were directed to a restaurant on the way we came. One side of the lonely road was lined by small houses and tamarind trees; on the other ran a rivulet filled with boats – fishing boats presumably. Two aged women sat some feet apart selling karuvaadu, fish salted and dried in the sun.

We walked a short distance before spotting the sign Neithal Seafood Resto, which was less of a hotel and more of an extension of a small house, with a makeshift shed modified to be the serving area. When we arrived, the single table was occupied by 5 other guests, so we were quickly shown into the next room, a small hall alongside the kitchen. A woven mat on the floor proved to be our designated seating area. The wall behind us alone was painted an enthusiastic orange with blue waves crashing, and the dull wall opposite was covered with old family photographs. The smell of frying fish wafted in from the kitchen and made us hungrier.

The home made food was a delight, adding to the raw ambiance of the place. We had a hearty meal of cooked rice, lentils, pickle, fish curry and a piece of fried fish each.

After the meal, we headed back to the Ecotourism Centre and were soon fitted with life jackets, ready to go. We made our way to the series of numbered boats tied to the shore awaiting riders.

Neither of us had been to mangrove forests before. It was a lovely ride, taking in the beautiful view, with a running commentary from the the rowing personnel.

He filled us in with trivia about mangroves, regarding their locations in India, and their importance in the ecosystem. He has been working here for the past 20 years and the words flowed easily with a practised precision, and at times when we interrupted him with our queries, he would repeat himself over and over, like a disfunctioning record playing, unaware that he was doing it.

It was a delightful ride. As we were taken deeper into the forest area, the place grew quieter. We spotted herons and parrots flying overhead and were charmed by the other worldly nature of the place.

The route rapidly turned into a maze as the trees split into little islands. Apparently there were around 3000 of these, and you could easily get lost if you were not careful.

The hour passed pleasantly. We were quiet as we came out into the sun again, revelling in the serenity we had just experienced, the sheen of the surreal alcove still shimmering at the back of our minds like the water glitter that surrounded us.

Note : Photo credit goes to SR. In spite of me blatantly claiming expertise in photography, it was soon evident that my skills ranged between nil and zero. I proceeded to blame my phone and he was gracious enough to pretend to believe me and subtly take over the job. 😀 None of the pictures are edited.

Posted in Anecdotes

A Happy Meal

I love to travel. 

It sounds like such a cliche in today’s world where almost everyone claims to be struck by wanderlust. But one thing that I guess sets my craze apart is that I am more into exploring places than sightseeing. Again, that came out as another cliche. Let me elaborate further.

I don’t care for destinations. I don’t care about whether the places I visit are sites worthy of exploration, or whether they feature in magazines and websites. I care not for public approval or appraisal. Everyone talks about Goa and Kashmir and Paris and Switzerland.. I don’t deny that I would love to go to all those places too, but I love equally to explore tiny niches that hold little value in the eyes of the average traveller. I don’t care if the place is amenable to be tagged on Facebook or to be bragged about to friends, I just adore being somewhere new; no matter what awaits me, if it’s someplace I’ve never been to, if it has something unseen in store for me, I fall in love with it. 

I also love getting to know places.. living somewhere for months and slowly making my acquaintance, knowing where the supermarket is, where the best eateries are, solving the puzzling traces of the little roads and by lanes till I can trace them on my palm, and if I were to pass by years later, it would feel like a glimpse of home.

This could be why travelling to the various regions in Cuddalore excited me so. The other day in Neyveli, it was past 1 in the afternoon when my work was done, and I asked the driver, a local, to find me a good place to eat. He stopped the taxi in front of a dilapilated building just off the main road. Mudaliar Mess. I raised an eyebrow but decided to go in with him. It had originally been a larger hotel, but the whole of the front part had been recently destroyed to facilitate road expansion. It remained as such, a crumbling ruin with a small opening that showed you some old benches laden with fresh green banana leaves in place, ready to be served lunch on. A couple of ladies waited on rusty chairs waiting for a parcel. The food was really good, but I could only eat so much, even after being compelled to take a second helping by those who served. They joked about how skinny I am, in the way only friendly small town folks do.It was a happy meal, not just filling or sumptuous, but truly happy. And that’s pretty lucky, don’t you think?