Sunday, September 17, 2006

ID - 4 (A Tribute)

28 days in 3 years .. thats a probability of 2.5% !!

Sep 1, I met her (see ID-1) and she cud speak.... and she pretty much told "Now I am waiting for death"!

Sep 4, I again met her, one of the Onam days and she cud still recognise me, but did not speak much... even as I handed her the Onappuda (new dress).. and she had already started to eat less !

Sep 14 she was hospitalised and I met her again on Sep 15, but she was almost unconscious....wud not even open her eyes. I undertook my B'lore trip fully aware that I may have to cut short and she breathed her last on Sep 16, 3.15 pm - I had almsot just finished my work in B'lore and just enuf time for me to catch a last min bus, and be back at my ancestral place before the last ceremonies

And now, the 11th day for the rituals is on 26th , and off I am on the 28th back to the US ....

Its as tho' someone had planned it day by day hour by hour... and frankly, I feel satisfied on two counts, - that I cud meet her .... thrice in her last few days... (albeit the fact that the last meetin she cud not recognise me or anyone around) ... and that she had a rather peaceful death...
even in her last few weeks she hardly complained

Once more my humble Pranaams to my Achamma (fathers mother)


She was the last of my 4 grandparents and the one to whom I was perhaps most attached... and so even as I tried chanting "Nainam Chintanti Sastrani..." , tears kept falling for a long time...
death...... undoubtebly the most powerful truth !

ps: I wanted to write about my Madras trip, IITM after 3 years, the Janmashtami celebs, and my B'lore trip...and I have quite some pics with me donno when .. not today for sure

Saturday, September 09, 2006

ID -3 (100th post)

Celbrating my 100th post with some pics from an awesome Chennai trip :-) ... at first, I was a bit diss that I did not get ticket for the nite train, and that I will end up sitting in the train for 11 straight hrs in hot sun.... but then when has train journeys ever been a diss for me ? and with cool breeze, and rain and moonlit nite... t'was a joy ride... meditative and exotic at the same time !! the camera cudn't obviusly do full justice, but here's what I cud

ID- 2a (pending pics)

Friday, September 08, 2006

ID - 2

The first week

So, Onam is officially over ! Ho was it - well 5 on 10, I shud say, mainly because there was hardly any Onam atmosphere anywhere... or aleast I did not come across much . Instea of asking "whats up for Onam", it shud almost be "which TV channel are u watching for Onam"... there are some 10-20 mallu channels now, compared to the 3 or 4 that used to b there 5 yrs befoe.. and so more soaps or my mom :-) ... eventhen, there were glimpses of Onam here and there... here are some quick bits of my trip so far

the komies

well, looks like the commies and i do not match "in blood" itself.... here's what happened... needed to get some advanced blood tests (mostl I only told the doc to write them down), and since the doc was an employee of the EMS hospital (buit by the commies, in the name of the veteran commie E M Sankaran - well, there is a Namboothiripad, his caste name that the commies usually attach to the name, but then heck with it, E M Sankaran wud do ) I was asked to give blood in the hospitals lab ... well, my town here is a "hospital city" , with about 10 or so MAJOR hositals, and numerous smalls ones... and this one too, as such was big and well mainained

But then, the lab was a total idsspointment... after paying the 1090/- Rs, a traineee sort of young fella came to take blood... first off looks like nobody over here wears gloves... seeing the fellow (who was shorter than me and younger than me), I instinctively stretched my left arm,... he plucked in the needle in the wrong place (I cud sense that), and worse, seeing that no blood is coming , he started turning back and asking the ohers around there, and while doing so was twisting and turning the needle inside my nerves ... and then, even worst, he started pushing the some litle blood that came, back into the neves..... that was enuf.. i told him to stop, and did the rest myself... pulling out and stuff... then comes another girl, she did a good job taking the blood from my right arm, but then threw the needle full of blood carelessly on the table, so much so that the needle hit here and there and drops of my blood made its marks all over !!! I complained to whoeve there, they noted down my no: and suff, never heard back .... me remains anti_commie even in bloood !!

Trips and Treats

Was in for quite some pleasant surprises, for in the moring, in the temple near my house, Balagokulam kids had gatehered around and made a little flower carpet and were singing Onam songs... that was my first Onam treat...
I learnt that they had many more Onam pgms lined up for the rest of the day..

The taxi hired for us to go visit al elatives (daylong) had two CD collection of old Mallu songs... songs which I wud listen to as a 6 or 7 year old... that was lovely... for most of the songs, I wud sing along... I think the driver was surprised that I remembered most of the lyrics ! Over at my little cousins place, the 6yrold and her friend sang some Onam songs and danced to them (in their own ways - see the pic below).... O well, the deeper into the villages you go, Onam's still alive I guess

An overnite stay at Guruvayur.... me and my parents decided that we wil get up around 5, reach the temple by 6, get darshan and prasad by 8 and leave... but then , I could not sleep the nite.. at 2 am, I decided to get up and go stand in the early morning queue when then temple opens at 3 am ... It almost looked like the Lord wanted me to come earlier... I remembered an old experience of mine with this 3 am worship

Its called "Vaakacharthu"... at 3 am u get to see the Lord as decoarated the previous day... then they dress the lord as a kid, bathe him using the twigs of a particula tree (vaaka), and again dress him as a small kid ..all this happens very fast and in order to get to see all these, u have to stay put at the very door of the outer sanctum of the temple from 12 midnite the previous day... I did that once, and once the door opens, one has to run about 100 - 200 m before u can hit the door to hthe inner sanctum... among the crowd that day was a 60-70 year old man... people around discouraged him from being with the crowd and running . "Ammava, Odumbo Veezhathe nokkane" "Uncle, be careful, don't fall when u run with the crowd".. he just smiled...

3 am, the door opens, the old man is already on his heels... the rest of the crowd simply cannot catch up... he enters the inner sanctum first, with almost a 10 m gap from me,who was the second to enter , followed by the rest of the crowd .... O well, glad I came second only to such a soul :-)

Oh ya, another interesting bit.. For the Udayastahamaya Puja (a special daily Puja at Guruvayur), one needs to pay 50,000 Rs advance , and book.... (the real expense of the Puja I guess is much higher). And as of now, every single day upto year 2049 has been booked, and the board has stopped taking any more (the board run by govt now wants 10 Puja bookings per day to make money, where as the priest is insisting that only one person be allowed per day)

So thats a whooopping 75 crore rupees sitting as advance cash with the devaswom (meaning for govt to loot) ! For 50,000 Rs one can run 3 ekal vidyalayas (i.e about 90-100 kids education and 3 villages healthcare) for one full year !! with 75 crores, 365*43*3 schools for one year - or almost 8000+ schools for 5 years... O well, the day Mallus learn charity, I shall be blessed !

Leaving thoughts

Well, there is lots to write... lots and lots ... every minute here is full of life... something or other keeps happening... am being pulled into everything.. from the mobile revolution (remember those li'l cycle repair and rental shops or rather wooden box rooms.... u don't get to see those anymore, instead u see mobile service centers) to the fact that I am ending up drinking tea almost every 2-3 hrs ....... and so on andso forth... but then
I think this' is a good enuf update... One week over.. thats one phase of vising relatives, and eating lots f Onam food... and getting to know what has changed in this tiny yet hyperactive little town...

And now comes the second stage .... the next week of Chennais and Bangalores ... and in between, I shall come back for the Janmashtami celebs on sep 14 , by the Balagokulam .... for Onam has been a bit of a dissapp.. I hope the Balagokulam folks, will keep the flag hi

ps: Pics... ummm... upto downloading onto a comp or burning on a CD is okay, but then, many comps in internet cafes do not have softwares even to roate the pics, and sometimes no wnzip and stuff... so will upload as and when, but no promises :-)

Saturday, September 02, 2006


The ID stands for India Diary, as well as "Identity", cos for once the two days after landing here in Malluland, I have started wondering about identities !! n no, not an identity crisis, but just a thought....

With that prelude...

So how was the journey.. ?

It was smooth.. Air India so far has been damn good... great food, (5 full meals within 18+3 hrs ), pretty good service.. and not more than 15 mins late at any point ...even though I was a bit dissappointed by the way some people were noit mantaining the flight, especially the bathrooms.. as soon as they get inside air India, looks like they think they can mess it up like they do the rest of India !! I have always told those who crib "governments are nt doing anything blah blah... that the first thing to change is people's civic resposnibility ! anyways, the airline crew were very good and extremely helpful and they tried to maintain everything good inspite of all this

ps: The small domestic airline leg from IAD to Newark in United Airlines was quite pathetic... the flight got delayed by 1.15 hrs, first due to lack of flight attendant, and then due to air traffic conrol room jam )

What did I do in the flight ? !!

Ha ha, I was baby sitting 3 yr old Ammu (Gargi/Ammini) .. her Mom was travelling with her and a 6 mnth old baby . A family whom I met at the French embassy just 10 days before I left.. (Knowing that I was in the same flight same day upto Kochi was a great relief for Ammu's father..) . She was quie active (and so kept me busy always), but was very very lovely....
Mumbai airport... ummm there was some little confusion as there were all the crowd for 3 connecting flights with only hours of gap .. but then , it worked out fine within 30 mins ... Kochi airport - aleast the area were I saw, was damn good... glazing floor, very neatly kept, nice wall decorations (there were Onam Maveli's everywhere) enough immigration checking points...
And I finally hugged my parents a 4.15 am India time :-)

So, is there lot of change ? (Errata : Who changed ?!!!!)

Well, for one, I would say there is not much change in Kerala ! Same old guttery roads, all "busy" people, no time to stop and take a breath even if they are busy just walking up and down, if one day a new stylle of pants became famous, you won't even get a single piece f the "old style" in the shops.. well well, some little changes may be.. STD booths are less, and mobile ads are everywhere... but I did not see people using it that much often (while walking on a road, lets say) as I did last time (3 yrs ago) , I thinbk the reason is that now its no more a fashion, but a part of life .. so no showoff, just the matter of fact-ness . nd mind you - I did not mention the bad roads in a "ndia is all bad" mode.. I have always have had an issue with Keralites - there is lots of show off - shallow development - like buildng after building has come up even in my Fathers interior village - shopping complexes with hardly any shops in them - but then infrastructure development is minimum.. I believe that its worse compared to many other parts of India.

But then, I get the feeling that I have changed.. in many ways.. As I watced the driver of the taxi (a Scorpion from airport to home) drive very close to other vehices, overtaking with less than an inch left between vehicles, I felt that eventhough I am used t this lifestyle, I perhaps cannot drive like that anymore ( I used to, 6 yrs before) .. But then may be, I need not.. and Oh by the way, we saw almost 3 or 4 accidents in that 4 hrs driving time !!!

Lot of other positives... of course in addition t being home... but then one thing was a it dissappointing.. I thought I could come home and relax... but day one , with after only about 3-4 hrs of sleep in the 30-35 hr long journey, I had a hectic day .. - looks like I will have to plan my entire stay here.. For some reason my parents are just not getting it when say that I have to many things and that many things have to be planned-.. be it my Chennai-Tirups-Bangalore trip or trying to get a cell phone for one month, or even trying to find which would be a good shop to buys something - I am having to do everything on my own !! On top, a bit of carelessness from my mom, broke my glasses within a few hrs of me getting home... forcing me to get an eye check much much before what I had planned ! (I landed at 4am, and by 9 pm that day, after a hectic day and about 50 hrs ,I hit the bed, and slept like a log of wood, without even taking dinner)

Is it that they have grown old (I had told them all these things 3 weeks in advance, but they haven't even enquired about any of these things .. I thought they would...) , or is it that my life has become so fast paced, that I can't wait for their procrastinations and indecisiveness, anymore ? Or is it that I have fundamentally changed, and they and the rest of Kerala has not changed ?!

What else ?

Had a small quick trip to my grandma and paternal relatives village (within about 12 hrs of my landing) .. that was the happiest 3 hrs I had so far here ... My 84 yr old grandma, who can't walk on her own, was surprisingly not emotional... she did not cry.. she did recognise me, she can see and hear quite well ... and she herself admitted of mental slowness, but then she has so maturely come to terms with all that.. she is not at all the whining type.. I took her in my arms and made her sit up... we talked for sometime.. but then I realised that she is not asking me as many questions as she used to... just "when did you reach home?" and "are ur parents with u ? " (they weren't.. it was just me..) ... and upto the age of 80 when a slp and fracture took away the abilty to wallk from here, she was hyperactive soul , could cook in the kitceh AND make a few_month_old_baby lying_in_the_next_room_alone laugh, AT THE SAME TIME . My humble pranaams granma .. proud that I am one out of the may be 100 babies grown op on your lap ... will never forget that you taught me to read time froma dial clock when I was 3 or so ... and would make me run from kitcehn, all the way to the tiny dark room where a big pendulum clock was kept (I wud peep in with a li'l of the dor opened, for the rest of the room was dark, except for the radium dials) every hour to "check time" (actually to keep me occuppied, for she would be busy cooking.. and we two wud be at times alone at home when my parents wud have both gone to work)

anyways, had a nice time meeting many of my cousins.. could not go to the li'l temple and the river.. but then looking fwd to going there again on Monday, and may be again some other day

Anyways, me gotta close... will try to write this as frequent as I can.. and may be stud it with some pics too... but a word of caution.. internet in this part of the world is quite slow.. and so some of you may not get replies to ur emails for a while to come... (I know,some are so glad to be off the arun deluge of emails) ... AND


ps: there is a much much less Onam atmosphere over here than what I expected ... :-(