Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Is that what it was...

It was Special.
It was Exciting.
It was Painful.
It was Pleasing.

It was Longing.
It was Yearning.
It was Fighting.
It was Making-Up.

It was Anger.
It was Affection.
It was Tears.
It was Smiles.

It was Sacrifice.
It was Surrender.
It was Caring.
It was Beautiful.

It was everything but Indifference.
It was all Emotions in one.

It was...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Chasing a Speed-post

This is a relatively new story - warm, crisp and oven-fresh.
It happened to people close to me, at a place not so close to me... o'er the hills and far away... southward... to a particular town in God's own country.

The story begins with a speed-post envelope that set off on its journey on the 30th of March. It contained a valuable piece of paper - a crossed cheque meant for a particular person, let's call her Devi, for a sizeable amount, about one lakh and a half INR.

Devi and her family are away from home from the 7th of April, and they receive information on the 10th, that the cheque is en route.

Frantic phone calls follow, to friends, neighbours, and other countrymen, to look out for its arrival, and intercept as soon as it is spotted on the highway. Days follow, and the afore-mentioned well wishers keep their eyes peeled for the light and bulky cheque.

On 12th, Devi finds out that the cheque originated from the same town which she had left a few days ago. By all laws of Mathematics, Physics and Logic, the envelope should have reached her before she left home. Tension mounts. 

Another set of phone calls, coordinated by Devi, follow, first to the originator of the cheque, to get the tracking number to locate the speed-post, then to the friendly neighbourhood countrymen. The next day, one of them proceeds to the General Post Office (GPO) and produces the tracking number. He is then directed to another Post Office which has the responsibility of delivering the speed-post. To his shock, he learns before long that the speed-post, the precious bulky amount, has been 'received by Devi' as indicated by the signature on the receipt.

Tension gives way to Panic of the highest degree. Keeping Devi updated on his findings, he proceeds to search for the postman who has delivered it. He is out delivering mails, so he leaves his number and other contact details with the Post Office and returns home.

Devi and her family are devastated. One and a half lakhs of rupees is no small amount. Someone has deliberately signed and received the cheque. It could be too late, but for what it is worth, Devi calls the sender of the cheque, and requests him to verify if the amount has been debited from his account, and if not, to ask the bank to block the cheque. If the transfer has taken place, to see what account it has been moved to.

The next day, word arrives from the neighbour who had followed up with the Post Office. The post man has appeared at his doorstep, with a bright, though embarrassed, smile, and has unravelled the mystery. Knowing that the family is away and also that the envelope contains a cheque, he relied on his wisdom to sign the receipt himself, and pushed the envelope safely beneath the door of Devi's house. Holding him tight by the ears lest he should escape, the neighbour - who fortunately had a key to Devi's house - proceeded to open the door to find the lost envelope with its precious cargo safe and sound.

Another set of phone calls, though in a much milder and relieved tone, flow across the network, informing the rest of the worried clan about the safe arrival of the speed-post, and to the originator to not block the cheque.

No surprise, when the neighbour asked Devi whether he should forward the cheque to her at her current Location, the answer was a Loud "NOOOOO!"

All's well that ends well... Though the fate of the postman who scribbled the false signature, though with harmless intentions, is as of now uncertain.

Any guesses on the Moral of the Story?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Photography film by @NaseefGafoor

Which story-writer does not dream of a movie based on his/her story?

Naseef Gafoor, Photographer, Student, Twitterer and a lot more, has created a beautiful video using the photographs he took, based on a tiny story I wrote on this blog a few weeks ago.

then i dont want to grow up from Naseef Gafoor on Vimeo.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Everything you do... is an Art!

Agree or not, reading Newspapers is also an Art.

A person I know can spend a whole day with the 12 or 16 sheets of a newspaper and its supplement, not even taking his eyes off to eat, drink, blink or breathe, though I suspect he could do admirably without the last. As the day progresses, so does his angle of inclination with the ground, starting from upright position on the chair and slowly descending to the horizontal, at one with the ground, with a pillow to support his chin.

His Sundays and other holidays are dedicated almost wholly to newspapers, other distractions like Television, Socialising (online or otherwise) etc. being almost next to nil. Very often one would find a cigarette dangling from the corners of his lips, lit or not - indeed, I doubt if he could bring forth sufficient energy and time to light it, so caught up as he is 'between the lines'. That is perhaps the only luxury he permits himself.

I, on the other hand, skim through the headlines in 5 minutes, taking in next to nothing and remembering not a word of it ten minutes afterward, unless a really eye-catching piece of news which deserves a second glance catches my eye. So disgraceful is the way I miss important headlines that many a time I have had to re-open the newspaper to read the biggest, boldest text in the front page, that the whole world was by then talking about.

For a person like me, newspapers are a real waste of trees, and the best way information can seep in is through channels like Twitter where the uncensored, unguarded and unconfirmed news, observations, analysis and related items are delivered to our doorstep - whether we ask for it or not.

A mix of breaking ( or broken or destroyed or reborn, as the case may be ) news filter in through the Twitter Timeline, of Earthquakes - IPL - Death of Prominent personalities - Drought - marriage, divorce, others - European League - digs at other Tweeps - Floods - Terror Attacks - Accidents - Discussions... anything that is worth 140 characters. Just the right thing for those who need to taste the river called Information, without needing to drown in the knowledge.

So impressed was I that there still exist bipeds who honour the ages-old custom of reading, that I asked this acquaintance of mine, with a touch of open admiration in my voice, "How in the world do you manage to cling to the Newspaper for hours? Don't you just die of reading the fine print?"
"No," he said, "I read it in rounds."
"Rounds?" I asked, thirsting for more.
"Yes. I read the big, black, bold headlines first, also the news associated with the pictures. The second round is dedicated to smaller headlines, the third and final round to the finest prints."

I gave up, unconvinced, uncomprehending and unaltered, and left him to his pastime.

The only victim of this apparently harmless indulgence of his and so deserving martyrdom is the newspaper itself, which finds itself crumbled beyond recognition by the time he is done with it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Vishu... Then and Now

Vishu, from the recesses of Memory...

... Summer Vacation
... An old house that exists no more, and a farm
... Grandparents...
... Being woken up at half-past-four in the morning, and brought before the Vishukani with eyes covered
... Wondering in half-sleep where the Vishukani came from, as it wasn't there the previous night
... Being given a coin each from grandparents and parents as Vishukaineetam
... Going back to bed, clutching the coins tight
... Come morning, bath, new dress and visiting the elders in the area for more Vishukaineetam
... Fighting with cousins over whether the bigger hex-shaped 20 paise coin or the smaller round 25 paise coin is better
... A small Devi Temple almost right across the house
... A river that flows at the door-step
... Running in and out of the house between games to munch home-made banana chips and to drink water from the mannkalam in the kitchen
... Playing hide and seek in the Cocoa plantation

Vishu, now...

... Taking a leave for Vishu, because it is not a holiday in these parts
... Checking with the local Malayalee store a couple of days before Vishu as to whether, and when, Konnappoo will be available
... Rushing to the store before the said time to ensure that we get a bunch before the rest of the Malayalees in the area snatch them away
... Buying a few vegetables for the Vishukani, compromising with lesser number than required, as the whole set won't be available there, anyway why buy the ones we won't use afterwards?

A sparse Vishukani

... Vishukani at 7am, oh well, who wants to wake up earlier than that?
... Bringing the little one with his eyes covered to see the Vishukani and giving him Vishukaineetam, no longer 20 paise or 25 paise coins, but notes in the double and triple digits
... Calling up his grandparents for Vishu wishes over phone
... Reading and responding to SMS Vishu wishes
... Preparing a few 'special' items with rice for lunch and calling it Sadya

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Love in the time of Cholera

That is how they were: they spent their lives proclaiming their proud origins, the historic merits of the city, the value of its relics, its heroism, its beauty, but they were blind to the decay of the years. Dr. Juvenal Urbino, on the other hand, loved it enough to see it with the eyes of truth.

"How noble this city must be," he would say, "for we have spent four hundred years trying to finish it off and we still have not succeeded."

This was not only due to her limited time and the danger of being taken by surprise, it was also her nature that caused her letters to avoid emotional pitfalls and confine themselves to relating the events of her daily life in the utilitarian style of a ship's log. In reality, they were distracted letters, intended to keep the coals alive without putting her hand in the fire, while Florentino Ariza burned himself alive in every line.

He did not resemble him in the pictures, or in his memories of him, or in the image transfigured by love that his mother painted, or in the one unpainted by his Uncle Leo XII with his cruel wit. Nevertheless, Florentino Ariza discovered the resemblance many years later, as he was combing his hair in front of the mirror, and only then did he understand that a man knows when he is growing old because he begins to look like his father.

He was a perfect husband: he never picked up anything from the floor, or turned out a light, or closed a door. In the morning darkness, when he found a button missing from his clothes, she would hear him say: "A man should have two wives: one to love and one to sew on his buttons."

Gabriel García Márquez

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Birth of Krishna

One of the stories that I find myself repeating very often to my four-year-old at sleep time, is that of the birth of Krishna. But unlike in my own childhood where I had only still images from Amar Chitra Katha to expand my imagination, my son has his animation CDs that help permanently embed the stories in his mind. So much that, if I make a small mistake in the narration, he corrects me immediately!

I like the Little Krishna CDs, by the way. The little Maakhan Chor looks so adorable!

The following story of Krishna's birth is taken from this site:

A divine message came to Vasudev soon after the birth of Lord Krishna, "Take this child across the Yamuna River to Gokul and exchange him with Yashoda’s daughter. You will return to the prison before anyone comes to know about the birth of this child." 
Vasudev immediately followed the advice. As he carried the child in his arms, he found that the prison doors opened automatically and the guards were put to sleep by God. Vasudev approached the Yamuna River, which was very turbulent due to fierce winds and rain. However, as soon as Vasudev reached the riverbank, the river parted and made way for Vasudev carrying the divine child. Vasudev reached the opposite bank of the river safely and found all the people of Gokul fast asleep. He entered the palace of king Nanda and queen Yashoda, and put the baby Krishna in the place of Yashoda’s baby girl. Then Vasudev returned to the prison with the baby girl. 

As soon as Vasudev laid the baby girl by Devaki’s side, the prison doors shut automatically. The guards were now awake and were startled by the cries of the baby girl. The guards ran to Kansa and announced the birth of the eighth child.

Kansa rushed to execute the child in the prison, remembering the divine warning that the eighth child would kill him. Devaki appealed, "O Kansa, this baby is a girl, and not the boy that the divine warning told you about. How can this child harm you?" However, Kansa ignored her, snatched the child from her lap, and hurled the child against the prison wall.

The child did not fall down; instead, she flew up and appeared in the sky as a Goddess with eight arms, each arm carrying a weapon. She said, "O evil king! You will gain nothing by killing me. The one who will destroy you is elsewhere." 
Then the Goddess disappeared.

Click here to read the complete story.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


The sleek, black car sped into the night. The man at the wheel stifled a yawn. The woman next to him looked ahead with a bored face. Only the four year old prancing on her lap was excited and full of life.

"Is the sun up yet?" he said, at the top of his voice.
"No, honey," said the woman, "and please don't shout."
"Is he brushing his teeth now?" The volume stayed where it was.
"I assume he will be doing that in..." with a glance at her watch, "about half an hour now."
"Is he sleeping now?"

He sat back, silent for half a second before plunging into non-stop chatter about his friends the Dinosaurs, the shapeless models he made with clay and the magic he carried in his hands.

Noticing the row of lights ahead, he suddenly asked, "Is this the airport?"
"Yes... this is one end of it."

The chatter continued as if there was no break.
"Would you like to sleep for a while?" she interrupted.
"No! No! I want to see the sun wake up." His eyes were eagerly taking in the view ahead, a sight that could excite only a four year old.

"You can see the sea before we land," said she, trying to share with him some of her own love for her home-town, "and coconut trees - lots of them - that look like a jungle."
"Okay," replied the child. "Look - is that rotating light searching for planes?"
She sighed. "Yes."

They parted ways at the airport, the man back to his car after seeing them enter the lounge, and the woman and child to check their bags in.

As the plane prepared to land, she leaned forward to catch the vast sea stretched below them with the coconut jungle on one side, the waves, barely visible, lashing against the shores, as if welcoming them home. She looked at her son, her suppressed excitement shining through her eyes, and found him fast asleep.
"We are home," she whispered.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Earth Hour and After

One more Earth Hour has come. And gone.

The event gains more supporters every year. Those who stared at me when I spoke of it last year, messaged me last week requesting to turn off the lights from 8.30PM to 9.30PM on March 27th, to show my allegiance to the cause of Global Warming. Last year, I had shut down all lights in my house while the rest of the apartment and street burned on, my attempts to convince the neighbourhood having failed. I do not presume that my action served some purpose, or swung this way or that the amount of heating that the planet had had to endure. I said to myself that I had done 'my share' - whatever that meant.

Perhaps, if the whole world (or the dark side of it) shut down power at the same time instead of going by time-zones, the effect could be a little more pronounced. But that is just another stray thought, it does not work that way.

To be frank, I believe the concept is deeper than 'whether the Earth Hour is good enough to work wonders and cool the planet.' I like to believe that there is a slice of good intention behind the thought.

Maybe I am misinformed or naïve, but I believe that these little 'meaningless gestures' are the reason why every year more people are introduced to terms like 'Global Warming.' If some of them remember to switch off the bathroom lights after use, I assume it means a wee bit of good? I mean, how else can one individual or his family really contribute to the mammoth cause, if not in little drops?

During the Earth Hour this year, I was at a Mall to watch a movie, having absolutely forgotten about the event, and having left a couple of lights on in my house. When I came out, a few minutes before Earth Hour terminated in India, people were lighting candles before the otherwise well-lit Mall. I saw no purpose in it and didn't join. Indeed, the melodrama could have been avoided.

What inspired this blog is a certain group of people (who, I'm afraid, are getting exceedingly irritating) who have taken it on themselves to oppose everything anyone proposes. Their infallible argument is, "why don't they do something-or-the-other instead of this?"

They who blow horns about bigger efforts not being taken, do they really do anything significant to change things, or do they travel cross-country by flight, use plastic bags, waste innumerable quantities of paper,... and limit themselves to dialogues?

We do maul the planet, scrounge the sea and bring down the forest to make our life what it is now. I don't consider it remotely possible for us to stop the activities just because the Planet is becoming unfit to live in.

But that does not mean we stop trying.

Every issue has at least two sides. I'm sure we all agree there is a problem called Global Warming and we're not doing enough to tackle it.
But isn't Awareness the first step to acting on it?
It may not be anywhere close to enough, but is the sarcasm completely justified?

The arguments continue...