Posted in Uncategorized

SYW – Week 50

This is in response to Cee’s Share Your World challenge. So here goes!

What is your favorite smell? What memory does it remind you of? My favorite smell is, was and always has been that of books. I’m an official book sniffer. The one thing I love to do when handed one, and this applies to textbooks as well, is open a random page and breathe it in. It doesn’t matter if it’s been freshly delivered or found in second hand bookstores (unless they are too dusty of course.) I think the smell takes me back to specific books from early reading days, especially those by Enid Blyton that I devoured as a child. I judge a book by its smell!

What kind of pet do you have or want to have ? We have an adorable dog, who is beginning to age. I wrote a post about him too. The idea of parting with him hurts so much, I don’t feel like having another pet. I have always wanted a squirrel though. My father apparently had one growing up, one that’d come sit on his shoulder when called and eat from his hand. I always thought it would be swell to have one like that.

Are you usually early, late or right on time? It depends really! If it is something that I’m excited about, like a movie or meeting up with friends I am always on time. But when it comes to less savory circumstances, I am nowhere near punctual. I procrastinate. Trying to break the habit though.

For recharging, would you rather meditate, swim, walk, listen to music, write, read, yoga, other? I sleep quite a lot. When I’m tired, bored, depressed. I always feel fresh after a nap. I do listen to music too, and writing sometimes helps me sublimate. (Hence the blog) Yoga and meditation are great too, but weirdly they make me feel sleepy rather than recharged!

What are you grateful from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? This is an easy one. I am literally waltzing around the room in ecstasy as my dreaded exams of the year are finally over. I think I did them better than I hoped to. For the next week, I plan to finally get back to everything that had been on hold due to said exams – blogging, reading Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov that I bought a month ago and a week long sojourn with friends in Chennai.

Have a great week ahead, everyone!

Posted in Musings

Grandfather, Remembered

My paternal grandfather passed away last year. He was someone I knew only from afar. In my memory he is but a cheerful greeting and a pat on the back that came with summer visits after every school year.

Our visits were brief but looked forward to, as he lived in the hills. He taught at a school there and refused to leave the place even after retirement. Reaching him meant hours of exhilarating travel up steep winding roads lined by forests on one side and a precipitous drop on the other. I remember how we used to roll up the windows, for fear of monkeys that resided in the area. It was not uncommon for them to swing off low branches and latch on to slowing vehicles to grab food from unsuspecting passengers. Once night set in, there were chances we might come across wild rabbits, deer and even herds of elephants. The memory of a lone wild elephant spotted one night still fills me with awe. Another vivid memory is that of a glorious sunset witnessed once, the sun a large ball of fire in the blood red sky, playing peek-a-boo from behind the thick foliage as we traversed the sharp bends.

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A view of the valley and the road traversed as we near the top

Large tea estates awaited when we reached the top. The shrubs trimmed to perfection resembled green crocheted carpets strewn over either side of the road. We’d pass a couple of small sleepy towns, punctuated by wilderness and estates. I remember I always kept a look out for an ancient tree shrouded in mythical mystery. Every year I’d gaze upon it with wonder as my mother pointed it out and recounted the legend.

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The tea estates 

When we finally reached, the first to welcome us were large clusters of pink flowers that fell from vines that grew along the walls. All my life I have associated Rangoon Creepers with my childhood vacations in Wayanad. Grandpa would lead us in with his typically flamboyant pleasantries. In a corner of the hall lay his faithful sheepdog, oblivious to our presence, blinded partly by age and partly by the unruly mane over his eyes.

Most of my time there was spent going through his collection of books, usually abridged and illustrated classics in orange paperbacks. Every year I’d scourge the shelf for new classics, exalting in the discovery of previously unread ones. Otherwise I would explore the backyard up to where a small stream ran. An unused grinding mill stood there, surrounded by thick layers of rice husk coughed up over the years, replacing soil. There were guava and mango trees nearby which bore fruit in the summer, and I’d munch on freshly plucked ones happily if the monkeys did not get to them first.

While books and nature always engrossed me as a child, people seldom did. I don’t remember ever having a real conversation with my grandfather. This is partly due to the fact that my visits dwindled after high school and ended once I went off to college. Me coming home became a rarity in itself, and travelling to meet him was out of the question. I was too busy growing up to notice he was growing old.

Last year, I made the journey again after nearly a decade. The place has undergone drastic changes in the last years. The climb up is not as steep anymore, the roads having been widened to facilitate the growing traffic. Wayanad is now a hot spot for people seeking ethnic enclaves and picturesque getaways. Large billboards boast of ostentatious resorts that cater to every need. Institutions have sprung up in between the tea estates. My fabled tree of old is easy to make out now, as the area around it has been cleared and fenced to mark its existence.

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The Chain Tree

A great many people showed up for the funeral. I knew my grandfather as a teacher, a retired Headmaster. But everyone who gathered had a lot more to share. I was intrigued to discover he had been instrumental in turning part of that isolated village into the town it is now, using his ties with the ruling political party to erect the first schools there and the first bus depot. He had been President of a regional bank. He had a degree in Law in addition to Literature. My ideas about Grandpa faded, and in its stead I saw a curious young man, charismatic and fascinating, alive through all who had truly known him.

As the stories poured in, I felt a deep sense of loss. In all those years as I scourged for orange paperbacks, I had missed out on this particular classic.