Memories

Growth pangs

We sit in the balcony. Me, the missus and the little miss. I stare aimlessly into the sky and swishing the humid air around. She sits with a mild frown. A frown that announces her irritated wondering on why her mother is insistent on her finishing an odd part of a silly thing called ‘idly’. It is part of our routine. The acrobatics and drama that are required to feed her.

The missus’s unwavering resolve to feed her an extra piece of food than the previous time, whenever that was, stays on course. A morsel of rice more. Two pieces of ‘bhindi fry’. A silly portion of a small idly. Whatever. It just had to be more than the record before. Progress is painstakingly slow as you can imagine. Nevertheless, there is a score that is kept meticulously in her mind. A challenge that the missus has worked on with zeal. Like a cricket statistician who will announce in the middle of a dry game, ‘this is the first time two runs have been scored off the third ball, bowled by Mr.X, when the Sun is out and two pieces of cloud dot the sky’. Or something like that.

Today, the little miss is more than the handful that she is usually. With a couple of playful pirrouettes that permeate joy in their silly incoherence she tells the missus, ( in an exacting tone and intonation that I get spoken to several times), ‘Have some patience please’. She then pirrouettes one more time and smiles. That naughty smile that emerges from the corner of her lips give away the fact that it is a calculated strike. Our silence signals to her that her mission is accomplished.

The stunned silence is only interrupted by a muffled chuckle that I would have typed ‘ROTFL’ were I online! The silence returns. Sometimes the future arrives without telling. We always noticed the daughter imitate one of us. A small sigh here. Or a comment there. But this is impeccable.

It announces a few things. That she has a sense of humour. That she is awesome cool in soaking up something and redeploying it someplace else with a telling ease. A few more thoughts flow. It takes a minute more for me to accommodate the thought that she is growing. That she is changing. Change happens in small packages. And then these small packages coalesce like an irreverent assortment of patches of cloud that announce a coming together by thunder and rain! It puts me in a tetchy frame of mind. Growth pangs, if you will.

Like the other day.

We were busy shaping a very pliant assortment of play dough with all our might. Me and the little miss. As the play dough took shapes that an adult would describe as a useless lump of waste material, her imagination flew into another sphere. I tried clambering on to her flight, tossing pressing worries aside and co-navigating vast alleys of her imagination. After about two hours of intense work with the play dough, we had a few more lumps to show. And that was that. But to her, it was the world. Of particular interest to her was a sad red lump of what was intended to be a car. In a matter of minutes her tiny fingers messed around with it for some more time. Before she announced “Appa, look at the boat”.

IMG_20150426_113005

The deformed tyres of the erstwhile car, she announced,  were herself and me.  With seamless ease she belted a story.  “Once upon a time there was a boat”. Immaculate imitation of how I read her, her bedtime stories. I was, in more ways than one, listening to my own voice with the sing song intonation and all that. My ears perked waiting for the next few lines. By then, her mission stood accomplished. ‘That is the end of the story’.

That was two-three weeks ago.

Today, with the threat of the idly safely dispatched, we sit down and say goodbye to the moon. That too is part of our routine. She waves and says, ‘Goodbye moon’ as is our wont. Over the last three years and so many months.

Today, for the first time, she says, ‘Appa I dont like the moon. He is not waving back.’ Its a subtle shift. Or rather a significant subtle shift. That a response is sought from the likes of the moon and a disappointment pervades in the absence of a response.

I stare into the moon and its unblinking radiance, becoming ever so present to how fleeting time is.  Change is inevitable. It signals progress. Growth is good. The slipping of time, like sand through the fingers, causes pangs.

Open palms

The little miss is under the weather. ‘Nothing serious’, the good doctor said as he wrote his medicines.   The weather itself has been overcast and hesitant. I don’t take to such stuff well. The hesitant overcast skies or the suffering miss.  Give me the piercing Sun or the pouring rain. Maybe even the angry winds. The indecisive in-betweens that are neither here nor there, aren’t nice. A strange low envelopes me and even my usual panacea, the good old coffee and conversation, doesn’t do much today.

I wonder how it is with you, but I have a habit. When the bad times strike as they often do, after doing all that I can do about them, I take a quick flight to into the past that brought a smile, via objects. Like a memento carelessly bought on the sidelines of a conference.  Or rereading a book and relishing the  careless scribble on the margins, far too much more than what the author and the publisher would have liked. That’s what I do usually. But today I reach for my phone and scan through some pictures.  Pictures evoke not just a memory but a range of emotions that are entrancing. An indescribable assortment of photographs inevitably triggers a spectrum of emotions.

The goat

In a few moments the screen of my phone fills up with pictures of the little miss. Pictures from various times. Like the time that she was a cuddly little thing. Or when she clambered on to the first car seat.  The first tentative touch of a goat. Then comes the picture of her open palms.  Ah, the open palms! That was some story.

The picture lingers on the screen. As the screen stays filled with her open palms, it inevitably stubs out the frown and a smile that seemed singularly impossible, sneaks onto the face. Almost like a Pavlovian auto response. My memory races to snatch those moments from nowhere and gives it a rebirth of sorts.

It was a while ago. I recall standing at the window, staring into the overcast skies, phone affixed to the ear. Struggling to listen keenly. My playtime with the little miss interrupted by a phone call from work, that I couldn’t ignore. The travails of work struck when the little miss and me were attempting to shade the big cat that we drew on the whiteboard.

The call sucked my attention and my eyes stayed affixed to the clouds and the phone firmly glued to my ear, as the conversation lingered. In a short while I hung up and continued staring into the clouds. A deep searching stare. Thinking about the just ended conversation. Searching for answers to questions that can’t be asked here, for there aren’t any convincing answers.

It was a shriek from the missus that shook me out of the sepulchral trance.

Now, imagine opening the familiar bread basket in a famished state, hoping to find finely buttered bread and instead finding a big thick black scorpion that was poised to sting you. Would you not let go of a scream? I would. That is the kind of scream that the missus unleashed.  It is a different matter though that vagaries of a wandering cockroach or a lazy crawl of a lizard for that matter, get the missus to have violent goosebumps that would cause you to think she was practising Kathakali. But this scream, even by her usual standards was something. Something was clearly amiss.

I rushed to find them frozen. She and the little miss. The missus standing. With hands covering her ears, eyes firmly shut, as she typically does when the extremes confront her. The little miss, frozen in surprise, looking at the missus. I looked at both of them, a lost traveller desperately seeking clues to the old road.

‘Look at her hand’ she says.

 Hands

I was on the phone for precisely two minutes and thirty three seconds. When I closed the call, the phone had announced that. Add another thirty seconds for that silly trance. But that was all it took for the little miss to train the whiteboard marker on to her palms. Both palms. With ambidextrous efficacy that would give Sourav Ganguly goosebumps.

In a fleeting set of seconds, there was a striking resolve to teach her some lessons. Enough was enough. Residual silliness from the call, plus the missus standing there with her striking classical pose all got me particularly wound up further. Heavy breaths announced anger’s grand arrival in me.

I had to raise my voice and speak about it all. ‘In a stern voice’, I reminded myself. After all, she has to know about the ill effects of these board markers. It was really going to hurt her as I would have to empty half a bottle of hand wash in scrubbing everything off.  Plus it was going to be intense effort.

As I was about to make my debut in launching a ‘stern voice’ at her, the little miss looked up at me, opened her palms, put on display the lavishness of the black whiteboard marker’s effectiveness,  topped it all with a smile dripping genuine happiness asked, ‘Pappa, Nice?’

If there was a better example of a magical transformation, it doesn’t exist.  The little devil dismissed my silly frown with two magical words. But no, its wrong to call it magic. A magician does tricks. This was no trick. This was no illusion.

My anger melted like a flake of snow, dismissed in careless abandon by a flame from the bonfire. My sermon on the ill effects of the board markers will have to wait for another time. I scooped up the little miss from the floor. She smiled, put her hands on proud display and asked yet again, ‘Pappa, Nice?’

‘Very nice’. I said. There was nothing else to say. There really was nothing else to say.

I looked up at the missus. Her hands were still on her ears. Her eyes stayed shut. For a couple of moments, silence got an accented presence in our house. This topic was sure to return.  That’s a story I’ll tell you some other time with some stiff coffee and if you promise to pass around the smiles for company.

‘Lets go’. I remember telling the little miss in a hoarse whisper.. Amidst laugher and giggles we ran to the bathroom where the hand wash awaited us with a bristling drip.

Ah! Memories. They lift the mood.

Smiling Neigh #WINS

These horses hold their sway at a small temple in the interiors of rural Tamil Nadu.  They convey colour and sense of raw presence through the lens of the camera. 

Through the lens of the eye, the statues almost jump at you with a neigh of a horse in motion. Especially when you see multitudes of people thronging the precincts with hope and fervour. Cooking the traditional pongal , dancing to hard beats and an alien but alluring tune.   All in reverence. In honour of the lord.
For the ill to be warded. A child to be cured.  Or even a prayer of thanks, for all that has been and in subtle way, asking for the ‘nice’ to perpetuate! 

Today, for some reason, these horses with their vibrant colours and reverberating neighs come before my eyes as I review an assortment of thoughts that I want to share at #WIN 

There are a heap of real cool people coming in today. I have had great fun putting my thoughts together, not to mention dealing with the countless memories that came rushing back of Sundar, Ghost Particle, Manu and several others! People who I aspired to hang out with on blogs ten years ago and who went to become wonderful friends. Yes. Its I hope My Story will resonate with a few that come. 

Follow #WIN on twitter today. And of course, wish me some more luck! 

Madurai Diaries. Crossing the bridge.The AV bridge!

It’s a bridge that I have crossed many times. It is the only bridge that runs across the Vaigai River. I mean, there are other bridges but this bridge is the only one that bridges my imagination and memory in a quaint sort of a way.

It’s called the Albert Victor Bridge

Hurried thanks must go the “Viceroy Earl of Dufferin on 8th December, 1886”, as the plaque there would say.  The man, some 125+ years ago commissioned the bridge. Little would he have imagined that it would stand for so long or that it would see vehicles of this kind and intensity as there are now. BTW the British said that bridge would stand for 100 years and it is already 25 years past its period of best use!

The bridge connects the parts of the city that the river Vaigai divides. There is a shameful trickle put to best use by dhobis and others, that juts out these days that gives the word ‘river’ a rather uncouth bad name. For no fault of the river!  Much water is used upstream, but in another sense, much water has flown under the bridge.  

When you are born in a city and spend your growing years there, you realise that as much as you think you have grown over the city and move on, the city has actually grown on you. It leaves an inescapably indelible mark on you. A mark that peeks through the cracks in the fort of memory resting between your ears. 

At least that’s the effect Madurai has had on me. 

The house that I type this in from is in a different city.  A very different one at that. With the corporate satchel strung around my shoulder work has taken me further and farther from Madurai. 

But the further and farther I go the greater is the longing to come back. It is no Venice or one of those modern cities (although, I remember reading that it carries a sobriquet of ‘Athens of the East’!). The Meenakshi Amman Temple, other temples, the Palace, the Museum, other temples continue to be the calling card!  

The city itself is a patch on the potential that resides amidst it.  Carrying much of the problems from the past and adding on news ones with élan. More of the change, more things seem to remain the same! Withering under political chicanery and pointless debate. 

Yet in its warp and in its weave, the city is home to simple loving people, a unique way of speaking the language, a boundary less desire to stay awake through the night and of course, playing the quintessential host to all those that come in.  

This time around I was there for a different reason. But I lugged the camera around just to change my view and see if there was a story to tell. Well, there was one too many a story to share with the world. Never mind if the world is interested in them or otherwise! 

A few posts and pictures follow.  Of course, would love your views. 

Time Travel @ 50 KMPh

The roads of India keep telling you stories. Stories that are tall. Not tall stories.  Small items, objects and articles, that would not merit a cursory second glance from an average citizen anywhere else in the world, are put to such use, that arching eyebrows of designers and makers of such stuff can stay permanently bent with that arch!
 
To many regular readers this would fall a familiar repetitive rapture of this blog. But hey, what the heck. What is to be celebrated, must be. Wouldn’t you agree ?  There is a world out there that is examining the omissions and commissions of everybody else.  The government. The President. The peons. The cricketer. The blogger. The neighbour.  The antics of the ant getting another loud rant is commonplace.
 
Every one of them has been examined. Some with magnifying glasses, others with telescopes and all with all with a ubiquitous megaphone! Lets halt right there. 
 
 
 
 
And lets talk of the moped !
 
 
In an earlier generation, if you had the good fortune of riding one, let alone owning one,  you would go after Wikipedia with a toilet broom for such a derogatory description. 
 
The moped to boys in school, back then, was freedom personified. You didn’t require a driving license. Your school was still not sure if they wanted to call it a bicycle or a motorbike.  And you had power between your adolescent legs. I mean..you know what I mean. So what, if it was only 50 horse power? 
 
Ofcourse, we will not venture into describing some eager beavers sticking ‘BMW’ stickers and logos on to such agile spacecrafts. BTW, Spacecrafts is a legit name. It was a world bereft of social media and mobile camera phones and BMW never got to know this.  A ton of German drones would have come after us with micro millimeter precision, if only they saw BMW plastered with pride on the broken silencer !
 “Low powered motorcycle” is an achingly insane and insensitive way of telling the truth.  A lame truth.
 
You had to climb on to the pedal and give it half the yank of a full circle for the engine to kick into life.  For the next several minutes life would be in an in exhilarating fast lane at speeds that would climb all the way to 50 KMPh at full throttle.
 
Such memories.
 
As you grow older you tend to outgrow these machines. The loose adolescent skin gets some muscle beneath. Yet the memories stay. 
 
The mopeds have themselves morphed into becoming important lifelines for several segments of the population.
 
Like the mom & pop stores and their ‘delivery boys’.  A moped with its strategic space in the front of the seat, is just what the doctor ordered for carrying  bags of rice and a paraphernalia of goods that can feed a family for times to come. Or so it would seem.
 
But for some silly nostalgic blokes like me, these are spacecrafts of sorts. That transport you to wonder years that never fail to to elicit an escaping sigh. Every time you think of them. 

Moped memories



‘That’s the morning round’, says the milkman when you chat him up. He is quite happy. And sports a perdurable smile that is instantaneously strikingly envy provoking! You notice that it’s a can load of milk. Another can on one side. Yet another in the front.

Zipping in and out of narrow streets. Every household’s door knocked and delivered. An important vehicle in the distribution chain.

That causes you to wonder. How much can you accomplish in two wheels ? Especially when the two wheels are not big fat wheels that would take you long distances or are powered by engines that would equal an entire top notch stable.

There was a time, when going to school in a ‘moped’ was the thing! When classmates used to haul themselves and those heavy satchels into the school bus, you would dream of ‘zipping by’. It is completely another matter though, that the needle on the speedometer moving up by another centimeter would mean the engine having to quiver like a frail patient in an air-conditioned room with 106 degree fever and ratchet up a noise that could wake up someone in Hawaii.

But if anyone cared, it wasn’t you. For, you had a moped! You had mobility. You had freedom. You were a teenager looking into the future filled with possibilities and the two thin wheels of the moped had ‘arrived’ you.

Like all things, this status changed. In a blink of an eye, the big bad bikes replaced mopeds as the aspirational status symbol for boys. As life progressed and as the boy morphed into a man the moped was a relic, alive only in his memory.

But then, the moped continues to live on. Like with the milkman. In a very different avatar though. The moped had now dons the mantle of a partner for businesses.

Quite often, slipping to don the role of a load carrier.


These are small retailers. Hoarding their mopeds with merchandise, that any lay person would think that one more gram could appear to break the chassis. That’s when the man will haul himself atop all of his merchandise and drive off with a palpable disaffection for any sentiments and focused solely on getting ahead with business.

Safe travel is fortuitous and living is more than just merely ‘getting by’! The milkman and the shopkeeper represent a world that not many peep into. Taking for granted all that’s delivered at home when the only bones that are to be moved are those in the fingers, to dial a number.

But there is world out there. Still on the moped. Underpowered and over-delivering ! Spare a thought. Say hello. Sprinkle a smile. Pass an encouraging word. Give way..

If not for anything else, atleast for those moped memories from those teenage years!

Broom time !



This is the broom. Well, for those that think that it is an antiquated instrument that is used only to sweep off the remnant of cow dung or the recalcitrant dead leaf or empty dust, well, you are sadly mistaken. The broom is a mainstream household article. Of considerable eminence.

An article of significance that people cant, don’t and wont do without. Having been used to seeing it used with a casual bend of the body at the hip and an arc of the hand, the ground getting brushed clean in sweeping motions, is part of life !The swish swash sounds back home, herald a new morning. That is if the neighbourhood rooster’s silence leaves you wondering if he is having a throat ache, headache. Or perhaps a hangover !

The broom has more social standing than what its put to use for. An item of reverence. An item to be feared. From ghosts to Gods. If you didn’t already know, brooms form part of the offering paraphernalia for a variety of Gods down in the deep south !

Brooms being the Jaguar equivalent for the nether world is often quoted and kept alive by the likes of Harry Potter. Made famous enough to be left at that !

What perhaps is a must mention is the broom’s standing in language! Case in point : An oft quoted usage in Tamil is a two word combination which when roughly translated reads ‘the broom will tear’ ! Which is short form for ‘i-will-lynch-you-with-the-broom-till-the-blood-that-courses-in-your-dirty-veins-oozes-out-or-till-the-broom-tears-apart’. Or something to that effect.

Used with such swirl of the tongue and pitch of the voice, that any gent with an ounce of self respect and quarter of an ounce of pride, will quiver in his boots.

In modern times, urban homes are dotted with the sophisticated ‘vaccum cleaner’. Electricity powered sucking up or blowing away of dust and dirt is a fancy that many households can ill afford to miss, if a certain standing amongst the neighbours has to be maintained. That sure is a far cry from the broom.



At a sophisticated premises, there is a new instrument in use. Seemingly simple yet efficient. The user just had to hold firm and walk about. No swish. No swash. The gloves are spotless.

Indeed we have moved on in life and the broom is steadily getting confined to a certain class of homes in certain parts of the country ! Perhaps good for everybody, for all you know !

But, come contest me on this. Methinks, that the broom will stay put in peoples memories, if not in their homes. A vaccum cleaner as an offering for a God will am sure be promptly rejected by the Gods themselves, and on old lady flying off on a twin tailed contraption like the one above, sure is not going to be endearing on the eye !

If not for anything else, the swirl of the tongue and the pitch of the voice that will spout ‘the broom will tear’ will remain. Whatsay ?

The coronation !

The bells ring clear. Infact, the clang of the cymbals in the hands of the doll, bring about a watering in the mouth that would have made the man Pavlov beam with enough pride that could give the proudest of film stars some hair pulling!

A quick sprint to the balcony shows a genial man with the bamboo pole and a gait that is familiar. The old familiar gait. He looks much older now. 30 odd years have passed. Perhaps more. And they show. With cymbals clanging and the horn tooting.

Thirty plus years could have flown by. But Its time for some toffee now !

Memories of the genial gent, bending to wrap a tender wrist with the pink & white toffee that hitherto resided on the bamboo pole, come rushing back. He use to tie in the shape of a wrist watch ! Over the next half an hour, the kid would walk five and a quarter inches above ground ! Some thing that best of Swiss watches wouldnt give him later in life !

The years show on him too. The bulges and balding are pronounced. The glint of the sun from his Rolex makes him squint. Many watches have sat on the wrist. Many have gone too.

Today, as the cymbals clang, he rushes to the road with the mouth still in hyper ‘water’ mode !

Off comes the expensive watch.

Much to the amusement of the genial old man, here is a balding bulging chap, in crisp jeans and T-Shirt that would cost as much as the old man’s entire years supply, perhaps two.

Holding out his hand and asking for a new wrist watch ! A pink and white wrist watch made of cheap candy that hitherto resided on the bamboo pole.

The cymbals continue to clang with a ferocity that would have announced a king’s coronation.

He wasnt complaining. This infact was a coronation of sorts. He was crowned the kid he was. Armed with the pink and white watch on his wrist, chasing the white cloud and blue sky.

It looked like time had stood still.

One for the road

The sights are so many. The sounds are ear numbing. The mind tries to absorb all what comes by. The eyes are focused on the road. The heat is omni present.

The car’s air-conditioner is at work. As much as it can. Its some years old now. And it shows. The suns heat has been there forever. That shows too.

Its having an impact. All of this. To compound an already clouded mind. Clouded with work and its facets. Family and its facets. The home and the broken faucets.

The mind sows the seed for a head ache to take shape. The head is fertile ground. For such sowing. Tiredness germinates. Its becoming clear as to where all this would lead to. Beeps go off somewhere within. Auto triggered alarm bells within the confines of the mind.

Adding to the clamour.

That’s precisely when the sugar cane juice vendor is spotted. He pushes sugarcane into heavy machinery. Those wheels by the side, move with precision. Out flows concentrated juice. A slice of lemon. And some ginger. And some ice later, the drink is nursed.



As it sinks into a parched throat, the mind seems to be affected. The noises quieten. He sells more. A Small costs Rs.3/-. A large costs Rs.5/-. He can almost sense that the throat is parched enough for more. And proposes a ‘Jumbo’ for Rs.7/-.

In some time, what was grown in some field somewhere, rests in the glass at hand. The throat is a lot less parched. The mind seems to be a lot less noisy. Was there a connection ? There is wonder. As usual.

In satisfaction, the eyes roam. And spot the large tender coconuts sold. Just some distance away. The parched throat is no longer parched. The mind is still in its quenched trance. Yet, the tender coconuts beckon.



There are memories of having tender coconuts. In fields. Roadsides. Travel. With special people. With strangers. All alone. Lows. Highs. A million thoughts rush back. Its almost as though the tender coconuts beckon for re-living of those memories.

He is doubtful of any sale. For he has seen the Jumbos getting gulped with a ferocity of a ravenous glutton.

For only a fleeting second. ‘”The one with water'”, escapes the throat with almost quaint insult to the Jumbo glasses of Sugarcane juice. He gives a wide grin.

The mind seems to rise in protest. Somewhere, that protest is quelled with one statement : ‘This ones for the road’.

A sigh escapes. A smile uses the same escape route too. The mind is quiet. In some time, so is the air-conditioner in the car.

Such are not made often.

Through the meandering journey of life, there are are many that we meet. Some are acquaintances. Others pass by. Yet others pass through. And you realise how true this quote about life being a stage and the many actors who jump in and out is..

And of course, some stay. And out of the some that stay, a few touch you. A few others make you laugh. A few others make you think. And of those that make you think, there’s this handful that make you stretch and discover your horizons.

Well, this post is about one such man who did a bit of everything.

Who just stood tall by being himself. Who towered by discovering and getting people grow taller. Who continued standing for whats right, and instilling a sense of right and wrong in the people around him.

A man whose passion for industrial relations knew no bounds. A man for whom development of people was an inherent program which treated this English word spelt ‘b-o-u-n-d-a-r-y’ as unrecognisable code.

A man, who never lost the child in him. A man who has kept at lifelong learning. A man who took to blogging and tweeting rather late in life. But has gone the mile in these journeys.

A man who has touched many lives. Across many strata of society. In his own quiet way.

A man who is busy reinventing himself as i write this. Plotting a new career. And pushing his own limits ‘to pursue things that he always wanted to’

Just as he retires, today, from the organisation that he served for 33 odd years. A man who celebrates his birthday today.

And as he moves into the sunrise of a new life, he carries with him the good wishes & sincere thank yous, of the many that walked the journey along with him.

And of course, carries with him, his own way of doing things !

And as one part of his moves on, the other remains. In the people that he walked with. Who he changed. Forever.

Here’s wishing him a great birthday and a fabulous fulfilling time ahead.


His blog is
here