Girls !

Incredible. Obviously apparently charmingly incredible.

That’s how she is now. Her new found height holds the years that have gone by since we last we saw her and I blogged about ! She is “tall and pretty” will be an ultra conservative understatement that can best befit an exemplary miser whose currency is words.

Our niece. I was quite taken by the fact that regular readers ( three of you ), wrote in asking for how she was doing, based on my blogpost of 2006 ! Initially all chuffed by the hope that it was my writing that stayed in the memory for so long, but only quick to realise that it is about the ‘subject’.

This post is on our girls in the US !

Her process of choosing clothes can resemble a very conscientious accountant balancing his books. Exemplary care and methodicity in every step, and could often seem to last the time it took for a planet to evolve.

On another note, there are people that walk the earth with exemplary prowess in carrying off anything from a Zenga suit to a dhoti in manner that can be mildly put as ‘superlatively clumsy’. Then there is the other variety. Those , that can carry off anything from street clothing to designer wear with a degree of regality that gets all of the streets to turn and highways to take a bow. She belongs to the latter.

Her culinary skills are galloping away to mouthwatering results.. A knack of baking cakes and lovely milk shakes, always served with a tinge of lazy air and loads of love. By the way, made with one eye on the TV and the other on the oven!

Like the last time around, her accent is still American. Perhaps thicker. The English. The hindi. And the Tamil included. She corrects my pronunciation often and the English that the Britisher left behind and we ‘suitably’ modified in India, often inviting a shake of a head, a dash of laughter or a quizzical look. Our moments of discord went as far as that and no further. .

Swimming, Kathak and a whole array of activities, no t to mention academics, keep her and her parents busy ! Which is an equivalent of a Mt.Everest climb for me. Getting to work and back is a tall ask, and if I am in a good spirit after all work and the dodging of the quintessential jay walker, it gets me all excited.

Ah. There is one more addition. To the work that she does. That is to take care of her younger sister. A sister that has auto recharge dynamo within her with which she can generate ‘energy’ at will. A sister whose love for animals is a level beyond any combination of adjectives that I can hope to leverage.

A sister who is bright and bubbly, cute and naughty, rugged and sporty, fast and comfy. Easily enticing any who would care to play and getting them sufficiently tired in a few minutes. We saw her as a toddler years back. With energy bursting at the seams she is a package for whom your heart is perpetually warmed up for.

Together they make a pair that can melt steel ingots with sweeping hug and a simple word. They wear the chaniya cholis just as they wear those jeans. The twin liking for Jennifer Anniston and Abhishek Bachhan defining how equanimity prevails between the two culture whorls that they are in the vortex of.

To them, India is a ‘far away land’ in all senses of the word and the Californian air offers them a rhythm of life, that is so distinctly different than what lies within Indian shores. That is the place they call ‘Home’!

Their life and living is different. We may want to soak up their wonder years in our memory too, by watching it all in close quarters everyday. Questions. Exclamations. Playful shrieks. The purportedly tear jerking sobs, that announce a stomach pain precisely when its time to eat. All of it. And more.

But then their life is over there, ours is over here. Our rhythms are so different.

So, we soaked up a zillion memories and a couple of giga bytes of photographs, of a time with them. That should just about suffice, for now, to offset a desire that pops up about them ‘coming back’!

As I packed my bags and gave them a hug, it required no great effort to be acutely aware that the years will roll on as they have in the past. Each roll weaving in a layer of change over what I had seen in them the last time around. Intricately inter weaving and warping a boundless love that never fails to have us in such a bind.

The years ahead will add many more layers of life, love and living.

I wonder when I will see them next. I wonder how taller will they be ? What new English lessons will they teach. What part of ‘their land’ will I learn from them? What new fare will they cook up for us? I wonder.

And just as the suitcases were getting shut, she cocked her head on one side and asked ‘so, when are you coming back?’.

Just as I rolled my eyes as an answer, the dynamo kid said, with the ‘hands on hip’ stance : ‘Akka, why do you ask the wrong question always. Ask him, why does he have to go’ !?!

Ah, girls.

Honour in Strawberry picking

It was a perfect summer morning. We were driving from somewhere to somewhere in California. This big signboard was significant enough to grab and hold the attention of folks in the car. STRAWBERRY PICKING.

In no particular hurry to get anywhere the mind didn’t need any effort to get enticed to alight and set afoot to do some picking. Strawberry picking !

It’s got some level of physical activity for all in the family. For the kids to run around. For the adults to run after the kids. For adults to become kids. And for kids to chase the new found adult kids. In between, of course, plucking and heaping up strawberries in small containers.

There were very few instructions to follow. This board illustrated all that was needed to be done. Which was as elaborate as : Come here : Go pick : Come back & Weigh : Pay up : Go !

Pick we did. With some gusto. Any first timer could have mistaken us for folks that have never seen strawberries before or for folks that have been kept restrained for long. Slowly the baskets kept filling. The red strawberries glistened to the background sounds of cars and big Harleys whooshing by, which in themselves were dwarfed by the shrieks of joy in finding a bigger strawberry !

Soon we were done. There was enough energy left in the nieces to pluck the entire strawberry. It was us adults, who were tired. And folks like me still calibrating the dollar-rupee equation and wondering how much we would have plucked for !

That brought me face to face with the ‘honour till’ as they call it. The concept is simple again. It goes like this.

a. You bring in the strawberries that you have plucked

b. You weigh them yourself

c. You calculate how much to pay

d. You open the till ( ‘cash box’, as is better known in our part of the world )

e. You pay the money

There is no ‘cashier’. In fact, no one from the store is around. There are no cameras. Nothing. The folks just trust you to weigh correctly and pay appropriately. Guess what, we lived up to their trust, in right earnest. Paying to the last dime. That perhaps is the model. Trust people to pay and they will ! That was interesting. To say the least.

Its about a month ago that we did all of this. The rain drenched Mumbai air provides a distinctly different flavor to the senses. Much different and much enjoyable too. Yet, dipping into memories of red berry dotted rows of green, is done with no difficulty.

The days when adults became kids and kids remained kids are not days that are forgettable. The expanse of nature and the fresh clean best complimented by an expanse in the trust of the ‘honour till’. The clean blue skies and the fresh stillness of farmland only to be punctuated by those shouts of joy from such adorable nieces.

Well, some memories are truly priceless.

What is this ?

The nephew was here. And the past week was perhaps the fastest to slip away in a very long while !

Between playing, running around, providing for, and keeping a watch, there was very little time to do much else. He flew back yesterday. The marks that he left behind stay. Like the fingerprints on the TV, as he tried to knock it down !

With children, there is constant wonder. About the simple things in life. Things that adults have either taken for granted, or have an ‘established view’ in their minds. Established and firmly set.

One of the constant questions that seeped through this babble, was ‘What is this ?’ ! Pointing at several things. Including : Moon. Sun. Horses. Sea. Car. Bike. TV. Mountain. The missus.

In any case those are the elements that resonate very well with him. The last one included.

( A little short of two years, he hasn’t yet gone to Facebook to engage in very intelligent games like..”take this quiz to find out what kind of animal are you”. Or something like that. Thankfully.)

For now, it was easy to answer those questions. Giving him the labels. As he points to the moon, and asks ‘What is this ?’, you say : ‘Moon’ ! And he goes ‘moooooon’.

He is satisfied. But it sets me thinking. As to what really the moon is all about ! Or the disappearing hills around Mumbai, which he exclaims with a ‘WoW…Mooounnntaaain’ !

He still hasn’t got the complete hang of pronouncing all words and sounds. While in most parts the mispronouncing is hilarious, in other parts it is very, well, philosophical. What would you say, if he pronounced ‘purse’ as ‘curse’ !

And so it has been easy. To answer the ‘What is this?’ with just labels. And have him being reasonably satisfied with that. In some time, he isn’t going to be satisfied with just those labels.

He will dig for more. I hope to ready with answers, by then.

For instance, I am reasonably sure that someday he is going to ask me with a slant of disdain ‘what is this’ at how the world has been treating the environment.

Oh yes, as he pointed to me, and asked : ‘what is this’, i gulped.

“Kaaaviiii” is what he went with. The next time, he points to me and asks that question, i hope to have figured out a few things.

Seems like quite an ask though.

Of flowers. Noise. Colour. Fragrance.

And as we sit in Bryant Park in Kodaikanal, the spectrum of colours that stand on green plants are just mind boggling. Theres this endless stream of red and yellow. And then, as we walk a small distance, there is a blue, violet, white mosaic.

I pause to click a few snaps. And in the lens appears what appears to be a Cartoon character. I look away from the camera to admire nature’s fine dance. Many more images seep through the lens’ to the hard disk.

Just then, a bystander says ‘if only these flowers had as much of fragrance like the Jasmine..’ and i seem to agree. Of course, why don’t these flowers have some of that hauntingly waffling fragrance of Jasmine. I think. (of course i love jasmine)

We move on.

In some time we walk to ‘see’ Jasmine meandering by. Peeking from a basket that a vendor carries. And by the time we reach the car, the driver has adorned the rear view mirror too. And the aroma fills the car. The question returns. And i wish there was some more colour !

A few days from then, we reach Madurai. And folks at home wear flowers. And this question of colour remains. Dormant. You don’t speak it.(of course not). Ah ! But the mind resonates with ‘If only there was some more colour to the flower…!

The next morning, i am on my morning jog. At the Corporation Park. They have many signboards. And here is one that i pause to read. ” Every flower has its own beauty, you cannot compare two flowers…. ” And after reading those two lines, i stop. To read the full signboard.

Of course ! Of course ! The Jasmine regains its unparalleled height in my mind. And so do the colourful tapestry of flowers from Bryant Park. Each reigning in boundary less kingdoms.

I laugh. Suddenly i feel handsome. Powerful. Light. Simple. A thousand life events zip by in those intervening second. Even ‘Kavis Musings’ with all its faults seems OK !

I quickly re-pass the resolution that i slip out of. Often. ‘Do whats to be done. And leave out the rest’

And so, i jog on. And as another man sprints by, i tell myself ‘Yes leave the rest out. The rest of it is noise’.

Questions are the answers !

Children and their abilities to question are legendary. Coming from a clean slate, an inherent curiosity to know more and just be present in the moment.

Amongst the kids of friends and family, many questions abound. And some stay with me. More in that moment as their parents struggled for answers. Here are a few recollections.

  • ‘Why do you have to stand straight ? Can you just crawl around ?’

  • ‘Who invented walking ?’

  • ‘Papa, why don’t you wear a blue cloth on your head like that man ? ( Pointing to Manmohan Singh)’

  • Upon seeing a Korean Air plane, which is blue in colour : ” That is the only plane that flies in the sky”.

  • Papa, do you really work when you go to office or sleep like you do on Sundays ?

  • Mamma, ( looking at slum children ) can i play with them ? Why not ?

  • Uncle, are you the one from office, that my dad complains to my mom about daily ?

  • ( After watching Animal planet ) Animals are wonderful. So much better than my school teacher. Isnt it ma ?

  • If the rose can be red in colour, and it so good, why cant everything be red in colour ?

  • If i will be big one day, there will be somebody small also ? I need to teach somebody like you are teaching me.

  • After watching Discovery Channel : “If all people are the same, why do we have to fight ?”

  • Watching a news telecast : ‘These people have no other work’

  • Upon being asked what his name was : ‘You are the 10th person asking my name today. Please ask that uncle in that green T-shirt’.

  • Mamma, if God invented the world, he invented ice-cream also ? Are you sure, God invented vegetables also ?

Children and their questions / statements have always promised a hope for the future. That things indeed will be different. And to date, that’s a promise that never fades. At least as long as us adults don’t interfere ! That is !

Here’s to a great year of education ! And the next time he or she, comes up with a question, no matter how silly, no matter how odd. Perhaps its important to note that many answers to his or her future stays pregnant in the questions themselves !

And of course, one last question asked by a certain R. The mother had no answer. Can somebody help her.

“Why do girls sit and do ‘su-su’ and boys have to stand and do ‘su-su’ ?” [ ‘Su-su’, is accepted child / adult speak for pee ]

This post concludes the three post series on the kids world of today

Of Potholes and Plastic

The car itself was sold to a young, hardworking, handsome, upwardly mobile geek, with a beautiful, charming, etc etc etc wife and a playful, charming, lovely etc etc son some weeks back.

After a few weeks, he is taken for a spin. And as his senses soak up the interiors : the clean dashboard, the distinct odour of new rexine (or whatever), the super clean floor mat etc. And he sits. Forgetting the rest of the world.

It was then that he hears the rustle. It is then that the rustle of plastic on his behind was…, hmm…lets put it this way : is slightly more than a patently evident ! And with every pothole and stone that the tyre cares to caress, the collective weight of four bodies on plastic creates a sound that seems louder than the Korean engine inside the hood.

With the resolve of a Tamil film hero out to avenge the injustice meted out to his mother, his hands seize the plastic cover on his seat. To yank them away. His action would spell freedom for the seat. And peace for his ears.

It was obvious that he wasn’t prepared for ‘Don’t do that’ shriek that came in unison from his co-passengers. One of whom was his wife. ( Yes some men never learn). For all that could escape from his stunned lips was some hot air.

Like a pick pocket caught in the act by CC TV, he shrunk. ‘Let the plastic remain. The seat covers will get dirty. Let the car stay new for some more time’ they tell him. In Unison.

‘Its been five weeks. For how long….?’ he manages to mutter. Hoping to get the others aware of the futility of such efforts.

His wife shoots an unsolicited reply into the air-conditioned air of the korean car. “They will be there, as long as those plastic covers on your books back home remain. As long as those empty cartons of your perfume bottles occupy space in the cramped wardrobe…..”

In a jiffy he makes peace. He smokes the peace pipe with the flip-flop of an election time politician. The white flag waved with alarming ambivalence. And for sometime the only sound that punctuates the still air is from the air-conditioning vent.

Then in the middle of the road, the rubber says hello to a pothole. And a collective rustle of four bodies on plastic abounds. By now, he is aware that he has made his peace. And he stares into the outside world.

The potholes and plastic make him aware. Of his beginnings. Of his circle. Of his friends. Of his family. Of his country. Of its roads. And one more, much reviled, cliche: “middle class ” !!

PS : To the young upwardly mobile geek & family, with the new car, who will read this sometime : Sorry. This photograph is shared without your explicit permission. Hopefully all the adjectives showered in the opening para will compensate. OK ?)

Off Rice !

For some time now, i have been off rice. I can see the eye brows arch and the quizzical looks come up your face. In yet others, i know ‘there-is-no-limit-to-fibbing’ look on faces. You know, my weight has been bothering me for a while now. Yes. One of those numbers.
But hey, the essence is this : I really am off rice. That is a Himalayan peak to climb for a Southerner like me. Who believed that Eve felled Adam with rice. And the Western world chose to call it apple, because it would be easy to hold !

Today, when rice is served on the lunch counter, i turn away with a speed that would shame a north Korean missile. Lest i change my mind. The change of mind does happens Occasionally. But OCCASIONALLY. OK ?

To stay away from rice is a huge struggle. And that is an understatement. Rotis and Brown Bread can sound fancy to the health conscious world and the dietitian, but nothing comes close to ploughing your fingers through Sambhar laden rice.

And it is in such times, that i feel that the world conspires to test my resolve. It starts with the person at the lunch counter serving food at the office canteen. “Sir, some rice for you. It goes well the Dal”. And i look at him with a ‘when-did-they-find-that’ look, hoping that he would stop right there. He doesn’t. And you know what happens.

And now you have branded rice. This is a huge sack of rice. Yes. Raw rice, to be more precise to be cooked. In smaller instalments. Thank God for small mercies. This brand of rice is called.. ‘Golden Pari’ ! ( Golden Fairy). And has a bollywood heroine in dream sequence, with wings et al, as a brand logo.

Ok. Ok. a nameless Angel. OK ? And she is a symbol of purity. I see it as part of a global conspiracy. To test my rice resolve.

Yes sure. The women that i hold dear have used my alimentary canal as additional artillery. Well, I mean, my missus, mother and mother-in-law are all golden paris….. But you know, rice has stayed mainstream.

The problem really, is the pleasure in eating more and not knowing when to stop. There is a sudden urge to throw the chap who connected rice and carbohydrate to G20 protesters. Huh.

Rice. Rice. The damn thing sits for two minutes on the lips and for a life time on the hips. Sigh.

And No. I am not giving up. I am still off rice.

Pretty Woman !

I wrote this on our family blog. A letter to my nephew, introducing my dream woman ! I am just compelled to post it here by a strange force ! She was was a tremendous influence on me. And i am just telling the world !

Dear K !

Someday, I’ll talk to you about her. I need to.

For you ought to know that this was the lady that made me. And she had grown her ears. Gusty, fearless, compassionate, beautiful, wealthy, steeped in values and of course, ever loving. Those could be the traits of a dream woman. That she was one, i have no doubt. She also happens to be your great great grandmother !!

She told me stories. Of another time. She spanked me when i lied. She hugged me when i cried. She put the fear of God in me. She held me when i trembled at the distant sound of thunder. She urged me to stretch. She taught me to love and to laugh. She walked a fearless walk. And when she talked, the neighbourhood would rumble.

And of course, she fed me ! With a silver spoon !!

A lady with such class, that class would show, when she showed up ! Ever immaculately dressed. Notice all the jewellery in the photograph (clicked in her younger days ) ?!! I have seen them all, on her !! She always moved with great poise and dignity.

There is a story in the family that her husband whisked her away in a horse carriage to tie the knot !! ( In my time there weren’t horse !!)

Would you believe that she was the first woman in the family to fly ! And no i am not kidding. She flew in the 1930s i am told. Taken to see her city from air, by a husband whose wealth and stature is talked of to this day !

And then, one day, this day, many years back, she passed away. There are a few people who continue to live despite them being long gone away ! She is one.

I somehow feel that she watches over us. Listens to every word that we speak. And to the words that we don’t as well. She didn’t grow her ears for nothing !!

And so when you step out into the sun, do so confidently. For a gusty, fearless, compassionate, beautiful, wealthy, loving dream woman is watching over you as well.

“Be bold, my boy. Do your duty. And The world is yours”. That was her most favourite line. That sounds valid till date ! Doesn’t it !?!

( The ‘Road Series’ continues from the next post on )

Made in China

Their father bought them a car. This car. This red car. With yellow wheel caps, yellow seats and a white steering wheel. At the rear, this car sported a ‘Made In China’ tag. It was a different age. China was yet to be crowned an economic giant and ‘China’ still had a positive ring to it.

Having said that, the boys were disappointed that the car was not ‘Made in Japan’ as the other cars that their father bought them did.

The car did move with a smooth whine. For a few days, it was treated very well. Dust wiped off, many times, and given prime position right under the pillow, as the boys slept.

The days wore on and all hell gradually broke loose. For the car suddenly started finding legs of tables, chairs, humans and plain straight walls in its way.

A few months passed.

The car began to take the air. I mean, it was flying about. Hurled with supreme speed , accuracy and intent, which, if information is to be believed, inspired zillions of Tata Sumos to take to the air in Tamil movies !

The car just stood its ground. Dented here and there, the windshield broken, and the odd plastic tyre, twisted, but standing its ground. And the engine still whined very well. Made in China. It was !

A few years passed. The car still whined but moved. And pretty well too.

On a day when then mother and father were away, the younger boy, with a penchant for design and art worked on it. With a sharp blade and imagination. as tools. ‘

Volvo’. He wrote. ’10’ he wrote. ‘MRF’ he wrote. Actually, scrapping the red paint. Revealing grey metal inside. And suddenly, the car seemed to have acquired a certain character.

The rally driving he saw on Doordarshan needed an outlet. And this car was right there.

The older one, not given to such talent and imagination, hemmed and hawed. And took to moaning the loss of original paint. The parents were subtly made aware with select breaches of information. And to his surprise, they gave him a look that almost told him ‘grow up’ !

Many decades pass.

The young boy with imagination is now a successful corporate type. Using the imagination to scrape out the surface and give character to projects and proposals. And by the way, blessed with a young son, who is just studying the art of making cars fly.

And yes. The car that was made in China, when ‘Made in China’ had a different ring to it, stands. A little broken and written all over, but standing proudly !

And the older son, yes, the same one who almost got the ‘grow up’ look from his parents, hopes to garner some sympathy hits on his blog through this post ! At the least, he pleads for a different ‘look’ from his readers.

In return, he promises to work on his imagination.

The Two Minute Tale !

It was 7.23 am. I was getting into my trousers to get to work, hurriedly stealing glances at the clock that emits a tick for each moment it packs into eternity. My lovely mrs. remarked glancing at the same clock, ‘By this time we were married’.

That was years ago. This day. I froze for a moment. The scenes of that tumultuous day(s) made a kaleidoscope of a comeback.

The photographers continued to have dictatorial powers through the entire day. I changed costumes like an actor in a reality show. Alternating between dhoti, kurta, trousers and of course a suit. For some reason, till date, the mrs doesn’t understand the origins of my ‘weird‘ choice in going for a pale grey suit that looked ‘white’ under the lights !

I have agreed with her, like i generally do, and have quietly pointed out that if there was a fault line along choice, it permeated to ALL choices in life ! For i have no particular penchant for grey !! Or for suits, for that matter. That statement is usually met with a stoical silence !

The wedding itself went well. Friends came. Long lost relatives feigned smiles and made small talk for the video camera. Ego clashes thrived.

Both our parents were emotional. The bachelor friends smiled at me. They were still standing ! The married friends, were also smiling. For now, they had company, and one less of the bachelor tribe.

All in all, everyone was all smiles.

Thus started our journey ! From there on, we have meandered northward.

From Madurai. To Bangalore. Then on to Mumbai.

The ‘Rented apartment-Home Loan-Own Apartment’ cycle hit us. Ditto with the two-wheeler, four-wheeler evolution. The books have kept growing. New friends have continued to emerge. Wonderful neighbours live, lived and let us live. New connections continue getting established. Crazy decisions lead us to learning.

Saturday Tea & eating binges mean(t) new cloth sizes. We travel(lled). Have had our share of adventure. We take long walks, often arguing about a common subject, and sometimes just walking in each others presence.

The snaps that we click are ‘still’ images. Reminders of another moment in time. We lost money. Made money. Somewhere in betweenSaved some,. And still continue to repay loans. We are thankful for the roof over our heads.

Most important, we seem to have learnt from all.

We would like to believe we have grown ! And i think we have. Atleast, we seem to think of things differently. Wonderful parents from whom we learn on a minute to minute basis, and of course some phenomenal people who make our family & friends have pushed us there !

We saw people turn their backs on us. And we see new faces emerge. We meet people like Vanita & we resolve to journey on. We have hope that the tomorrow is going to be better for all of us. And so, we rumble on.

Between me and the mrs, interests & passions are on ompletely different ends of the spectrum.
Books Vs Arbid ( i call it so ) entertainment . Financial Prudence Vs Easy Living. Fitness Vs Taste Buds based living. Solitude Vs Socialising. Tamilzh Movies Vs Hindi Movies.

And such else.

Should i not be reasonably glad that we have clung on to each other.

After all she is the one who married the man, who chose a ‘weird ‘ pale grey suit. And i married the woman, who chose the man with weird choices !

‘Its 7.25 ! Are you just going to stand there. Dont blame me if you are going to get delayed…….’. Calls out the mrs.

At that call, trance evaporates. One heck of a six years spun by in two quick minutes. Life is like that.

I run.