Archive for the ‘memoirs’ Category

Word play

Posted: August 8, 2013 in Tales from past, Travel
Tags: , ,

During my short trip to the US, I spent most of the time working from the hotel. Sigh! We were given a studio apartment. The ‘bedroom’ end of the room opened into a powder room that had this motion sensor lights.  At first, I was delighted with it but then in night, every time I tossed and turned, the lights turned on. I spent half the night putting them  off. Hmph!

I worked from one corner in the ‘living room’ and I was confined to this place, most of the time.  The only highlight of the day, other than the scrumptious breakfast was the Mexican woman who would come in to clean the place. She turned out to be quite chatty and  I went on to explain her that I was tagging along with The Bloke and that I would be gone soon.  She wanted to know more. I yielded. She spilled her story in broken English.

Then she went on to surprise me with the Hindi word that she had learnt from her friend – “Accha”, she said.  Not wanting to be left behind, I smiled and added “Hola!” (Yes, Thanks to Katrina and ZNMD). She merely smiled.  I was not going to give up easily and I looked up Spanish translation  for “Thank you”. I practiced the word quite few times in my mind. I decided to spring it on her  after her work.

She had proceeded on to making the bed and as she straightened the duvet, she asked. “No kiss?”

To say I was flummoxed is an understatement.   Zillion thoughts ran through me.  What did she see in the bed that made her ask such a question?  Or She wanted to be kissed? Or probably, she thought that I was too orthodox to kiss. As if to wake me up from my stupor, she asked again, “No kiss?”.

It was then that I realized what she meant and I replied, “No kids”.

Ps: Oh, yeah I managed to thank her in Spanish. Erm.. She wasn’t floored. I give up!


“Muje bahut neendh aa raha hai”, I announced.  And just then I noticed that sarcastic lopsided grin appearing on The Bloke’s face and I knew something was wrong.

“Is it ‘aa raha hai’ or ‘aa rahi hai’?”, I further questioned him and he dissolved into a peal of laughter.

Hmph.  “It is my neendh and I decide its gender”, I shrugged. He guffawed.

And for the record, The Bloke can manage just few Tamil words and he gets labelled as ‘cute’ for that. Uh.

Anyway, I digress. This post is NOT about The Bloke or about the state of my spoken ‘Hindi’ but rather about my miseries with it.

The story dates back to ’93 when my vocabulary in Hindi was limited to ‘hathi=elephant’ and ‘kalam=pen’. To supplement this, I was sent to a Hindi Pundit and he bestowed the worldly knowledge upon with  the sentences like ‘Yeh kalam hai’ and ‘yeh mej hai”.  And equipped with vast and improved vocabulary, I appeared for Prathmik exam and ahoy! I managed a good score as well ;).  For the uninitiated, in TN we have exams conducted by Hindi Prachar sabha and back in ’90s, almost all of us appeared for those exams and mostly, in this case, the teacher is referred  as ‘Hindi Pundit’. So,  after all this rigorous and ‘katin’ Hindi exams, we could confidently rattle off, Yek gaavon my yek kisan raghu thatha’

All was well until we moved to Delhi in ’95.  At school,  I dreaded Hindi classes.  I was totally lost. On my very first day in school, just before the Hindi period could start, someone behind me buzzed, “Rajini madam is coming”. I  turned around with adoration in my eyes. How cool it was to nick name your teacher after RajiniKanth’! Probably, the teacher was just too strict and well-built, I thought. But in came a petite woman with a porcelain skin and  looked pale. Or, so I thought. when she spoke, I could hardly hear her.  No way near Rajini, I thought. Few more days and then the understanding dawned on me that her name actually was ‘Rajini’  and it looked like it was a pretty common name given to girls as well!

“Is that name in any way  inspired by the actor ‘RajiniKanth’ ?”, I asked the boy sitting next to me. He scratched his head in reply.

After the initial hiccups, I managed to pull through the Hindi classes. Among the four of us, my mom adopted quickly to Delhi. She would pack Chapathi and Dal for us every day.  The extra protein and fiber did help the plants in my school and they flourished and looked greener.  “Idly arici’ became a precious commodity and was taken out only on special days or when we had Tamil guests at home. And those were the only years when we got away giving Idly  and sambhar on the day of Diwali to all the North Indian neighbors. They were insanely happy. I was happier since I had the Gulab Jamuns for myself. After few years we were back to Tamilnadu and there, I pledged my commitment to Hindi and went ahead and chose it over Tamil.

Cut forward to 2006, I was the most sought after by my Tamil friends.  While Shahid Kapoor wooed, enticed and smiled, I interpreted his words and I think I did well,  for my friends let out a collective long sigh. I never understood if it were my words or Shahid’s looks that garnered that reaction. Living in a paying guest accommodation had its perks and I almost became the  North-Indian-certified-decent-Hindi-speaking-tamilian.

After getting married to The Bloke, I thought I would be more fluent in Hindi. How wrong I was! True, initially I picked up cooking instructions in Hindi like “ubalo”. But it was quite short-lived. Within a year of marriage, I forgot all the Hindi that I had picked up since The Bloke just refused to  converse with me in Hindi. Okay, we had never conversed in Hindi before wedding as well but we could have given it a try!

To me, Hindi is like  aerobics. When I practice it sincerely, I reap the benefits. But when I turn to it once in a blue moon, I end up with sore muscles. So recently when I had to converse for long in Hindi, I said something like “Mere prashno” and before my words were out, I realized my mistake but the damage was done. The very moment, the truth dawned on me – Hindi Prachar Sabha had left a dent on my heart, mind and soul and it was to remain forever!

So people, that is my tale of woe and now, I need a drink to keep the misery from enveloping me.  A strong filter Kaapi for me, if The Bloke agrees to make it otherwise I will settle for a Chai 😀 .

Until I sober up,

“Hail Hindi, hail Hindi Prachar Sabha”

The Bloke finished his post graduation few months back. With that The Bloke’s two years long ordeal came to an end. Or, so I thought. The last two years whizzed by in a haze with whirlwind of activities and suspense and with days merging into each other and punched with deadlines.  While The Bloke endured all of that, I had the best time of my life.  There is just nothing comparable to the joy of relishing your dinner watching a pack of men gobble up their food and swot for the exam. And even more priceless is the pleasure in asking the inevitable question, “How many more chapters to go?”. Ya, I am wicked that way ;).

While The Bloke slogged, I savored the campus, walked around the roads and deserted paths, sometimes aimlessly and at times, in search of the best spot to sit and read a novel – in short, I had all the time to stand and stare and probably, I cherished it all the more since everyone around me were  caught up in a web of chores that they had to tick off from their list and I had none other than to follow my will.

Add to this,  the coffee served in the campus is one of the best, brewed exactly to my liking and that was all that I needed on cold foggy mornings and on rainy afternoons. Err.. Okay, let me admit, the weather was just an excuse, I just couldn’t keep my hand off that heavenly coffee  and the low price that I had to pay for it was a bonus ;).  And The Bloke is such a big fan of the buttermilk served here along with the meal that he didn’t believe me when I told him that it is just yogurt, water and salt and every time he drank it with his heart’s content, he set me off wondering about his north Indian roots. For the record, now all that he has to do is to slurp the Rasam and eat that curd rice and pickle and I can christen him as south Indian ;).

I had my share of embarrassing moments as well in campus . Once a foreign student shoved a sheet of numbers in front of me and asked me to explain it to her. I could feel her helplessness and yet for a moment, but the very situation tempted me  to try my luck at fishing out  theories out of thin air and explaining to her. But thankfully, better  sense prevailed and I squirmed in my seat until I made it clear that I don’t study there.

So even though we were counting quarters, days and exams all the time and were exuberant once The Bloke finished off his last exam, there was a part of me that cringed. The only consolation was that we could drive to the campus any day but so far it never happened at all since The Bloke just detests driving through the heavy traffic.  After the 3 months hiatus, I happened to visit the campus last week along with The Bloke with some miscellaneous errands as an excuse. We drank gallons of coffee, walked on the rustling leaves listening to the sound as they cracked beneath our feet and just like any other farewell we bid adieu with the same old thought – “Time flies”!

I was never the same again!

Posted: March 21, 2013 in memoirs, Rants
Tags: , ,

‘No wedding-ring, I see. Ah! Good-night!’

My heart broke into million pieces when I read that. I don’t know if it was  the sarcasm behind those words or my rage or the concealed implications behind it or if it was my age that made me break into tears when I read that line. The ensuing life of Oliver Twist was much more teary and grime and though the fairy-tale ending made up for most of it, the heartless remark made by the doctor remained etched in my mind like forever.

Books hold a magic of their own and can deliver hope and laughter and at times, leave you scarred. And sometimes, for no reasons, some inconspicuous  things stick out of the book and catch up on you alter you for eternity. Sounds familiar?

Do you remember how the book, “Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” unfolds? Holmes explains to his dear Watson the difference between seeing and observing and how he notices the not-so-obvious unlike Watson and questions him on the number of steps leading to the hall and with ease, Holmes proves his point. I read this without batting an eyelid and no points for guessing what happened next. Yeah, in that sweltering summer of ’96, I ran out of my house, all the way down the stairs, counting it! At that time, I was this teenager who was hoping to be hit by an adventure. No, the adventure never happened. No one went missing in the neighborhood. No, not even the dog and there never was any mystery to be unraveled. But, I still count steps whenever I am in a new building and every time unconsciously, the conversation between Holmes and Watson plays in my head. Crazy? Yes, I know. And I still desperately hope for that adventure.

Image courtesy – wikipedia

It was in ’94, when I read the book, Pinocchio.  And guess what might have caught my attention in that book?  Strangely, it was the act of wishing upon the north pole star. We were in Delhi at that time. And our house opened into the terrace.  And many a nights, I used to gaze at the starlit sky and make wishes. I could never make out the north pole star so, I mostly ended wishing upon every other bright star. 😀 But thankfully, with years I grew out of this.

ps: This was inspired by daily prompt

The witness

Posted: February 3, 2013 in memoirs, Rants
Tags: ,

While the country was going through massive transformations under Narshima Rao in 1991, the kitchen of my ancestral home tucked away in the tiny village was not left far behind. We kissed the wood stove good-bye. Kitchen counters were installed and we got LPG! Few cupboards were installed on the wall. The dim lights were replaced. My grandmother, probably was in awe. Amidst all this, there was one thing that didn’t change, the one that witnessed all the change along with my grandmother and aunts. The radio.

The radio stood there on top of the wooden shelf with a layer of folded blanket underneath. It was to stay that way for ages. My grand mom used to start her day quite early with a cup of filter kaapi and the radio. Once the knobs were turned and the antenna adjusted, the radio would embark on its new day.  As the music filled the kitchen we savored the soft Idli, dosai and Pongal. While the radio crooned, we hummed in unison. It had a soothing effect.

While the cousins and I ran in and out of the kitchen and my aunts sweated and mopped their brows, the radio stood there in the shade, well sheltered. It was our indispensable companion in the kitchen.  The mood of the grown ups was so governed by the songs. In turn, the radio reflected the flavors of the kitchen – the turmeric smeared on the ridges along the circumference of the knob and the aroma of sambar podi all over.

For over a decade and a half, the radio witnessed it all – moving of me and my cousins into teens and our increasingly sparse visits, the much-anticipated and celebrated weddings and age taking its toll on my grandparents, albeit unnoticed by all. But my grand mom remained her cheery self  and so did the radio.

Last week I happened to attend a cousin’s wedding. I was so close to my ancestral place and yet couldn’t visit.  As I passed through the adjoining villages,  to my astonishment,  memories of days long past came back to me, in excruciating detail –  the doors,  the pillars and the beautiful ridges, the aatu kal, the unused wood stove, the radio and many others.  I yearned for all of them and I wished they yearned for me the same way!  I wished I had left a mark.

*aatu kal – grinding stone


Posted: September 9, 2011 in memoirs
This has been lying in my drafts for very long time and I just did not know how to conclude it. At looked like the post would never see light and had to publish. These are  “incoherent rants” of mine and may not be of any interest to you. And yeah, posted here since I dont trust that memory of mine anymore..

May has always been my favorite month of the year but for different reasons at different points of time. Currently, the only reason being the thinner traffic and of course the sporadic unpredictable showers which somehow mysteriously seem to happen exactly when I venture outdoors. And while I was in school it was due to the whole 2 months holidays (yes! they were  holidays and not ‘vacation’ back then) which I always squandered contently at my grandparents place in the most obscure teeny-weeny village.

It is a typical village with may be 8 lanes and where even my visit would be a breaking news!  The *kadai veethi, the sunday *sandhai, the *vibuthi smelling temple, the pond next to it with two elephant murals, the bushes, the pigs, the bus stand, the giggling gals and the ever-beetle-leaf-chewing old lady – each adding a stroke of colour to the village.

And the life there! So simple, non fussy and yet so interesting!

Heavy rains were always followed by a vist by the arthropods! And some even stayed late upto midnight just to sting us stealthily. Yep the Scorpion! This would trigger a fanatic search in midnight for the monster with brooms being the only handy weapon. And the medicine for the sting was just a dose of pepper crusher immaculately by granny and a piece of cloth tied just above the sting and a dose of ash from the temple smeared on spot.

Almost everybody in village used to gather, not in protest, not for business, but for the Friday night telecast of “Ozhiyum oliyum” on DoorDarshan. 4-5 songs would be aired with the last one from a recent movie and everybody would watch it without batting an eyelid.

And the doc there even made a door to door visit. oh man! how me and my cousins used to look up to him as though he had the panacea for every little infection. And it was long time before I could discover that he actually was a nurse rather who was called Doc and that it was common knowledge among people as well! Phew!

The water with its own strange sweet taste and colour.

And the loud bell in the temple was clanged meticulously by “odhuvar aiya”, clad in his spotlessly white veshti, sporting  a silvery white natural goatee for eternity, completely unaware of how a decade later all “dudes” would go all gaga about it. And while we all grew up, he had the same face with all the wrinkles etched just in place with no new one coming up. And he was the time keeper for the entire village. At the clang of his bell in morning, the entire women hood will march out of the doors to wash the portico with mix of water and cow dung and then proceed with their jelabi shaped scribblings, named kolam and some not-so-expert women would stick to perfect straight lines.  Again, it would be six in the evening only if odhuvar aiya  clanged the bell and the whole village would light up only at his clang with the exact murmur, “shiva shiva”. I’m sure a aerial view of this place would show the entire village going from darkness to light in unison.

It has almost been a decade now since I spent considerable amount of time there. Now the village has changed, “modernized” in its own way and though I feel the younger cousins would miss out many things, it  is all for betterment.