Still standing

These are not buildings with architectural significance ! But then, like every other building they hold in them a history. A tale. Perhaps two.

These were used as car garages. Many many years ago. In these ‘sheds’, as they were called, many an Ambassador or a Premier Padmini would stand. In the company of a slew of bikes. All from the housing colony over there.

And so these sheds shielded those vehicles that were owned with great pride. Sometimes to get people around. Many other times, to just keep up with the Joneses !

There were a motley crew of incorrigible kids who thought of this ‘shed’ with greater affection. For it was part of their life for most of their day. And dreams too.

These are snaps that were clicked a few months back. For at the side of these ‘sheds’ do you see those ‘stumps’ drawn.

Cricket !!!

Yes. Those three vertical lines, topped with one horizontal connection ? They were drawn with charcoal. A bowler of any merit, in the local community of local kids, gunned for those stumps.

The boundary was the road. The sixers meant broken glass panes. Tennis ball. Wooden bat. Teams. Matches. Challenges. All there.

There was no third umpire. There was no umpire in the first place. As kids, things were sorted out, mostly in a jiffy. Arguments. Fights. Sometimes walk outs. All would happen. But the game had to go on.

Kids didn’t play for honour or advertisements. Every kid played there, for cricket was life. Cricket was fun. Cricket defined. And cricket helped connect to other kids.

Many years later, those garages still stand. No longer are cars parked inside. They still stand though, with perhaps a thousand memories. Of kids, who live adult lives elsewhere.

The garages still hold evidence of their creativity. Of their ability to sort out things between themselves. And move on to the next match.

And perhaps those garages wonder, how different these kids grow up to be. With degrees in the pocket, jobs and routines as life. Treating cricket as a spectator sport. And somewhere, living life by rote.

Does this remind you of a different time. When passion ruled. The possessions were few. The heart was light. Losses never mourned. Fights were resolved. Smiles prevailed.


Give me some company, will you. I’ll get the bat and the ball. We’ll have a heck of a match. And more importantly, a heck of a time.

You see, the stumps..they are still standing.

The fruits of labour

There is something about whats available by the street, that excites the taste buds. Lets leave alone the samosas, jalebis and such else. Those deep fried grenades. That will sit two minutes on the lips, and blast into fragments that etch a permanent place on the hips.
This blog advocates healthy living and healthier eating !

So, Lets stick to, good for the body stuff : Fruits ! The varieties of fruits that are available for a roadside snack, is not only mind boggling but also, mouth wateringly awing.

For you could choose from Apples to Oranges. From Jack fruits to Mangoes. And from sweet ripe mangoes to unripe sour ones. And many more.

The mind wonders how it is with you. If you lay all these fruits side by side, and you were to pick one, which one would you choose ?

Ask that question in a MBA class and in nine cases out of ten, the answer begins with a ‘it depends’. And dependencies will stretch from global warning to Bernanke to Osama Bin Laden !

Lets leave that aside. And think, which one would you choose ?

Well, actually…. hmm…it depends. On the weather. On the mood. On what was had before. On what is to be had just after. And so on. Hmm. The MBA types with their ‘it depends’ seem to have a point. After all !

My all time favourite though is this. Cut (artistically so). Salted. A little bit of chilly powder. Throw in some winter chill. Ooh my mouth is watering already.

In my ‘wonder years’, three slices of unripe mangoes came for a rupee. Of course salted with garnished with a dash of chilly powder. Of course, it was forbidden. By ‘authorities’ at home. And at school.

Of course, it was mentioned that it was unhealthy. Flies and ‘exposed’ food were topics discussed. In all classes. Including moral science ! (yes, we had a class called ‘Moral Science!’).

Of course, the security guards at school, would whack your behind if they spotted you any close to the mango vendor.

But then, that was the most delicious of fruits. For it came by saving up those small five paisa, ten paisa and 25 paisa coins. With a sprinkling of labour !

Of distracting the attention of security guards enough to sneak out and buy. Through pacts with others for a share of the bounty.

Some of it was redistributed. Never for money. But for the odd favour, like a deal with the boy who sat in the first row to carry an extra pencil for me. Always! And of course, there were girls. I leave it there.

After a while it all became boring. For, whats to be done exactly to distract the security guards was known. The negotiation with the vendor was fairly straight. So, pronto, the only thing that needed to be done, was to induct others into doing it.

The other day, a slice of cut mangoes caught the attention of the camera. A flood of thought came rushing back. It was sweet. And sour !

For along with the lip smacking taste, came the lessons: Maths. Thrift. Saving. Marketing. Distribution. Positioning. Induction. Team Working. Oh boy. That sounds like one heck of a MBA curriculum.

It disturbs me. To think, that i went through two years of studying a formal MBA after having gone some distance with it in class three!

Rocking Horse

I am not sure if you see horses like these. Ok. Rocking horses like these. Where as toddlers, we swung back and forth. For all the energy that the kid expended, the horse didnt move from one place to another.

The child gets to ride a horse. So he is happy. The mother is happy for he stays in one place. Its win-win all the way ! (Until of course, he comes face to face with a real horse, and starts asking questions like ‘why does it not stay in one place” to his mother. But that’s another story).

Children of the modern times, get their first lessons in mobility on play items like this. My nephew’s first vehicle, just as he is learning to pronounce my name !

The horse (& such else) that rock, have been bypassed ! He zips and zooms from room to room in this three wheeler !

At an age, where i perhaps was learning to turn around to lie on my tummy (Ok, please go with the flow of this post and discount, for the present, that i am a ‘little’ slow) he zips. Felling whatever objects that come in the way. Be it the dinner plate, the TV remote or the coffee machine !

And in his victories, his parents claim to be monetarily poorer. ( I would contest that claim, and win hands down. But that’s another post)

Call it old fashioned attachment to things of the past, my heart lies with the rocking horse. And its variants : The swan. And the elephant. And such else.

Somehow, they brought about a connect to nature. And fueled imagination. So i think. You can imagine a whole lot of things while on a rocking horse ! I guess. Put me on a rocking horse today, and i can conjure up images of Porus and Alexander. Me fighting them, that is !

But, on another note, i don’t think he is missing much. At an age when i looked into the radio to wonder who was within such a small box, he watches Discovery channel and Sun TV with such precision, that he perhaps has a mental construct of not only horses, but also every conceivable life form.

(And of course, the Tamil movies will perhaps let him know that Tata Sumos are designed to fly in the air. Guns are like candy. That every man and woman has a soothing voice and a live orchestra inside them. And that, a hundred dance girls in funny costume ready to dance, come preordained with life. Thats again a separate post).

In a few years, he would perhaps access the internet. And learn. All about cars, bikes, buses. And horses too. If he wants.

I am sure he will do that all imaginatively, elegantly and efficiently. At many times the speed of what i can ever do.

I have one consternation though. About what he would think of me, when he reads this post someday. About my language skills. And perhaps my intelligence.

For what kind of a nitwit would one be, to even think of a stationary wooden horse as more fanciful than a colourful cycle that helps to zip inside the house and target the TV.

And worse still, call that horse a ‘rocking’ horse !

In awe of a plastic pot

I am in awe. Among other things, At the number of snaps of plastic pots that i have clicked.

There are many aspects of small town and village living that the ‘sophisticated’ cannot understand.

Amongst them, is the plastic pot. A very important lifeline to many. They come in different colours. Bright pink. Yellow. Orange. Green. Of course, the pot had to be identifiable in a sea of pots waiting for that trickle of water.

Getting to the tap, before anyone else can is important. At the dead of the night. Sometimes earlier than that. And take a place in the queue.

But that’s not where it ends. That’s where it starts.

It really ends when a pot full of water gets balanced on the head. And another on the hip. And gets home by walk. When home is a perhaps a kilometer or two away. And a flight of steps to climb, by the way. Careful that not a drop drips. For each drip means more trips to the tap.

And as this is getting written, there are other folks in big cities of the world. Who think water and such else, are in perpetual supply like a television soap. And the worst water woe is parked at the doorstep of the municipal corporation. But then, this post is not about them.

This post is about awe. And the plastic pot. The pot that helps carry water. With much love and such else.

I truly am in awe. Of a different life on the same planet. Of daily struggles. Of people. Of water. Of pots.

And of course, of mothers. Especially, one that i know, that carried many pot fulls, from the community tap. And climbed the stairway, many times. As her young sons fought over the plastic ball that each wanted for himself.

And she let them be. And they played, watching their mother amble along for more water in thirsty summers. Those were different times.

And so, the plastic pot opens a dam of memories.

And now, indeed there is awe. Now that i see.
What it would have taken to raise my brother and me.


clicked at Madurai. Aug ’08

This is about a form of travel. Called ‘Footboard’ !

It principally involves having one leg…no. Perhaps one half of one toe on the footboard of a bus, and clutch any part of the bus with an intensity that would do a lizard in a earthquake ridden building, proud. Just hold on.

And gather all the strength from wherever. And of course, you are not alone. There are many others that are going shoulder to shoulder, toe-to-toe with you. Actually, that should be ‘any-body-part’ to ‘any-body-part’ with you !

And of course, there are accidents. Life and limb are lost.

And Tamil movies have eulogised this sequence as one where ‘love blossoms’ ! As the heroine exchanges love struck glances from inside the bus, and the hero stays suspended in air. The movies of course, don’t show the suspension-in-thin-air as a harbinger of what awaits the hero after the marriage. Of course !

You have had many classmates in college doing this routine. Every single day, commuting to college and back. Looking for the most crowded of the buses. To demonstrate how much they can stay suspended!

They ridicule you. For you would never do it. Telling you that you dont have enough courage. You know deep within, that they perhaps are true.

clicked in a village in TN. June ’09

And you meet some of them. Many years later, long after they married. To women that didn’t travel with them in those crowded buses. They are a balded. Have children. They earn a good living. And speak of ‘those’ days with affection riddled nostalgia !

And say. ‘We were plain lucky to survive.’ And one of them casually lets go. “As a matter of fact i couldnt do much with the meagre money my dad made. Life had to be lived. Heroism was the cloak to sport’.

You wince.

He smiles. And goes on. ‘See it made chaps like you envy us !’

You smile a weak smile. And think of your the parent lottery you won when you were born. To the folks that you were born to.

And you see change all around.

And you look at the buses now. And find that some sport a fresh tilt to them. Even now. And now you know, that the tilt has many reasons. Wooing was one. Just one. ”Living'” was the big one that you didn’t think of. Back then.

Living. Sometimes, at the expense of life.

Whats on the dish ?

‘Do you have dish at home ?’ is a question that has no bearing to whats usually in the kitchen. For the dishes that are more mainstream than the ones in the kitchen are the ones that adorn terraces and balconies ! The dishes provide entertainment !

Yes. Satellite receivers. Or whatever they are. Every respectable neighbourhood worthy of its air, has dishes that sprout. Forget affluent residential premises.

Village houses sport them. Slums sport them. It is mainstream ! Really.

Many years ago, we used to have skeleton like antenna in the terrace. And that used to get to the desultory colour TV programs like Krishi Darshan and Chitrahaar.

But the most prominent amongst them all was the English News. Watched promptly, every night at 9.00 PM. More for picking up the language than for understanding what was with the country !

The newer generation would perhaps not know the likes of Neethi Ravindran, Rini Simon, Preet.K.S. Bedi, Geetanjali Iyer, Tejeshwar Sigh, Bhaskar Bhattacharjee and Minu…. ( i am unable to recall all of them ) read the news. With impeccable pronunciation ( at least that’s how it seemed to me back then) and neat rendering ! The signature tune of the 9 0 clock news seems still new in my mind !

The modern days, are different. You have smart technology, and ‘news anchors’ who for some reason have to have a laptop in front of them. (Sometimes i wonder if they play solitaire of some arbid game over there). What else do you do when you have breaking news like ‘Billi Bolta hai’ ( a cat is speaking ) is a scroll !! Sigh !

And with OB vans, and microphones passed on to people who seem keen to scale a quick height by making a Kanchenjunga from their backyard mud… there are bound to be some intensely comical scenes.

Like the young ‘journalist’ who thrusts the microphone just under the nose of the wife of a Sri Lankan cricketer. (A cricketer who has been injured in the terrorist attack in Pakistan). And posts the question, ‘ so were you praying for your husbands safety when you heard of the attack ?’

The lady was polite and answered in the affirmative. I mean, i could have said something like ‘Not really. I was actually praying for the pizza to arrive on time’ !

But of course, these are not Neethi Ravindran or Rini Simon. And todays language education happens through 160 characters. Of a text message.

So, todays news is about cats, dogs, politicians, suits, big screens, thumping voices and entertainment. And there is never ending repeat telecasts.

So there. Go on. Watch the news. While i think of Ms. Ravindran !

Cotton Candy memories !

There is an unmistakable energy in the air.  You wonder where it emanates from.  You look hard. And discover that he operates his contraption with a practiced hand. Throwing in that odd spoon of sugar and ratcheting up some noise with a small piece of cane.  

You try to stare into his face. And see whats behind that monochromatic stare into his pink produce.  You cant decipher much. 

You stand there, and simply stare into that contraption.  There are furious swirls that are on. And in some time, you see a gathering sponge of pink cotton.  

There is some thing unique here. You think. As your heart begins to beat faster and the saliva props in your mouth from nowhere.  Enough to make Pavlov beam in his grave. Ditto for his dog. 

The gathering swirls seem to pluck more of the pink cotton from nowhere. The swirls seem to have rung a magic in colour.  You watch the  small piece of cane disappear behind a cloud of pink cotton candy. 

The pink in the air makes you think. Of pinks slips. The lay offs. The worsening economy. You wonder where it will lead the world to.  Strips of bad habits that the world picked up gathered up as a huge ball of pink.  

By now, the saliva in your mouth makes its presence felt. The thoughts of the economy or the recession disappear like share prices on wall street.  Its now ready. Your pink cloud of sugar candy. He thrusts it in your face.  Not even looking at you. And moves on to the next customer. 

Your heart continues to beat fast.  You tell yourself. 

The price of cotton candy : Rs. 20. The calories which you would add : a 100 !  The worry on hygiene and such other factors :  Rs.400/- for consultation and an equal sum on medicine. 

The look of amusement on the faces of children, as you lick away the last strand of cotton candy and nudges from the missus, urging you to behave….. is large scale capital erosion ! 

But the memories that come rushing back to you from an earlier time. When you ran about in grey knickers, and treated 25 paise as a heavenly sum, and thought of cricket and cotton candy as proof that God existed…. Priceless !  

That unmistakable energy permeates. You no longer wonder where it comes from ! 


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 Original Convertible !

Some of us are born with heavenly blessings. I read about Jawaharlal Nehru going to college in swank luxury. But then, he didn’t go to school in a convertible. Well, what is a convertible ? ( Wikipedia defines...“A convertible is a type of automobile in which the roof can retract and fold away, converting it from an enclosed to an open-air vehicle”. )

An original convertible. How many of you have gone to school in one? My chest swells many inches. For i have !

In convertible like this.

The cycle – rickshaw as it is called it is a simple contraption of some metal framework at the base, a good hard seat with some cushion topping, a pedal, a chain that hauls, a cycle bell (that has been replaced by a circus hooter these days), a sheet of hybrid material for the roof. With a peep window at the rear !

Now, throw in some good calf muscles and some resounding attitude : That is a guarantee of a good ride !

For a few years, we went to school in one. And then, the school buses made an appearance and we graduated to motor transport. Arumugam, our rickshaw man was one heck of a puny man with bones all over the the body ! Except his calf. In his calf, he had SOME muscles !

I haven’t been in a rickshaw for a long time now. There is a discomfort in the mind, to sit on the energy and physical effort of another man. That apart, wonder at this contraption of sorts hasn’t ceased !

Of all the parts in the rickshaw, the most important was the seat ! That completely removable seat ! The rickshaw pullers used to guard it with all their lives. Creditors, policemen, rivals all used to take / steal the seat away when there was some issue at hand !

The hood will come down at times, when us children would pester to get a feel of the open air and sunlight ! Those were carefree days ! And we suddenly would feel like tourists of some sort. To go in an open rickshaw !

I saw rickshaws again. Last week. They still seem to be doing the rounds. And pretty well too. And here is the artistic part to the rickshaw. The rear still gives way for some form of art. A painting. An inscription. Something like that. Hold your breath : No product advertising !

On this Rikshaw there is Karunanidhi, Muthuramalinga Thevar and Rajinikant. The first man is the chief minister. So. Muthuramalinga Thevar is quite famous too.

And then, there is Rajinikant. Well, what is Tamil Nadu without him !!!!

I seek to draw your attention to the ‘ears’ of the rickshaw. Those artistic shapes ( in blue here) protruding on to the sides. Well, that’s where my school bags, with all their loads of books, report cards used to hang. On the way, to and from school.

My educational foundations always hung in the balance drawing in all the air !! (Now you know me….!)

Many years later when i went to a another school and discussions used to surface about convertibles & wealthy classmates used to state that owning a fancy convertible was their ultimate dream.

It was there that i wondered, what all the fuzz was about. After all, i went to junior school in one !