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.

๐Ÿ’•

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. ๐Ÿ˜€ None of the pictures are edited.