Sunday, September 25, 2011

NUT FOR THOUGHT




The bus would only take after ten whole minutes. I was getting so bored.  I pushed open the window. The pungent smell seeped in . Bus stand’s were the most popular public toilets. I watched other people watch other people –  the beggar watched an old lady with a big handbag, the old lady the child who sucked her thumb, the child the dog with short tail and the dog the man who roasted peanuts...

The man who roasted peanuts...he had deft hands indeed. The peanuts rolled , jumped and danced on the pan when his ladle pushed them back and forth, back and forth.  And when they got hot and rust red from the performance, the man stopped. And then quickly, as if to trap the good smell that emanated, he scooped some to pack them into a coned newspaper. His commercial eyes searched for mouth watering observers. His eyes met mine..

As soon as my molars found its way into the crunchy nuts, a thought stimulus was struck:

“Damn, why the heck dont’t I know Hindi???!!”

I have always had an aversion to Hindi. Maybe it’s fear. I simply cannot speak the language. From First Standard to my Eight, Hindi was a compulsory second language..But even to date, I am an ‘ullu ka patta’ at it. And when I reached College, I would justify myself with the usual clich├ęd lines of the South Indian bias to the language. Though I convinced others, I could never convince myself. ..I forget now... what was the real reason??

I popped in another  nut... Oh yes!  I remember now...Asif  teacher!

Asif teacher was my Hindi teacher in Fourth standard . She was a type. You know, the kind that’s grumpy and old. One day, she conducted a surprise test. After dictating the questions, half an hour was given. I sharpened my pencil and began to overwrite on the questions as ssloow as I could. After that. I took a good look at my paper with an eye of artist and patted myself.  Surely, it would’ve made a good model for the Nataraj pencil ad!

“Ten more minutes”, said the grumpy voice.

Easy peasy. I sharpened my pencil (again) and moved on to work out the answers:

‘Q.1   Ramu ne  kyu jhoot bholtha? (Why did Ramu lie?)
A.1    Ramu ne  jhoot bhola kyunki.(Ramu lied because.)
Q.2   Ramu ne kyu dhoodh nahi laya?(Why didn't Ramu bring the milk?)

A.2   Rame ne dhoodh nahi laya kyunki’.(Ramu didn't bring the milk because.)

I glanced around the class. Yup everyone was still writing. I sharpened my pencil (again). And then finally Asif teacher said , “ Time over..enuff..submit the test books.”
I grabbed my book and made a sprint for her table. But I was late. Four books had already been kept. But nevertheless, I made sure the remaining twenty eight were placed over mine.  I hoped she wouldn’t reach mine before the bell.
Contrary to all expectations her frail hands whisked away like a machine, ticks and crosses ( mostly crosses). Suddenly she stopped.

“ Who is this duffer?”

It was for me like those strange moments in life when I get premonitions...(like how you know the phone ringing is going to be for you...or when you feel someone's looking at you and turn around and see someone's actually looking at you...or when you when you have a deja vu..)I knew it was mine, but I wasn't going to admit it...yet.
But some bummer piped in:

“ Nithya..teacher it's Nithya's.”

I swerved around and marked my enemy. It was Blessy. She never missed a chance. Why was she so jealous of me? I wasn't even smart!

Strange. Blessy happens to be one of my best pals now. How do old time enemies become best friends for life? ...eh..so where was I..Yeah. Asif teacher and Blessy were the reason I was a 'duffer' at Hindi.

But of course, there was my brother again. I have understood from life that the greatest thing of being a sibling is, you learn to not get spanked for the same reason your elder bro/sis did. My bro was a dud at Hindi just like me. Sadly, he was the one who had to pay for it. Before every exam, my father would ask him to bring his books to the table to teach him. When my father was teaching, he would have no traces of the cute lovely humourous Pappa we knew of.. Like Dr.Jeckyll turning to Mr.Hyde. When I heard my bro whimper, I would shiver. That was enough to make me mug up an entire lesson in a jiffy. And so I was unscathed, left to study myself.

But now I'm paying my price. My brother can now speak Hindi to any street vendor. I'm surprised, he even understands their jokes.

I looked at my empty peanut cone. Poked my finger in it to make sure not a single nut was left uncrunched... managed to get half a nut. It tasted of bitter salt and the influx of iodine made me think: “Damn! I chose not to learn it. The blame game is easy.”

I got distracted from my meditation, when  man selling books entered the bus. With his monotonous well rehearsed voice he says ( but it's more like a song ) so he sings:
 Draaaing book,
colourring book,
Learn Hindi 30 day, Tamil 30 day
Psc, LDC books....

For a moment I thought he was mocking me. The bus was starting.
“ How much for that Hindi book?”
“Twenty five.”
“Here. Give me fast.”
I smelt the new book. I love the smell of new books. Flipped through the pages. Turned to the back of the book. It had the icon of Balaji Publications. It stated in bold black:
By languages we are many, but as nation we are one.
 Oh..how ironic!











Sunday, June 12, 2011

BIRTH OF A CYCLIST- remembering my good old school days...


Even before the bell finished ringing more than half the children of the school had run to the cemented ground to board their buses home. And every child, including me had hoped to not see these buses in the two beautiful months of vacation to come.

In the bus I carefully folded the chit on which I wrote ‘Don’t forget,3.30’. I was so excited and happy .The plans in my head were so random and multiple in number , they collided like molecules furiously against each other. I leaned back on my seat thinking, imagining laughing silently.

“Haaallo!! Escquuz Me! Do you own this seat?” 

It was Nadia, greater foe than friend. I usually watch out, to not sit with her in the bus, but I just didn’t notice today. I complied. I gave her the greater share of the seat. She was a fatso anyway!

As soon as I got down my stop, I made a run for home. I pushed the big aluminium door of my compound open. Before I turned to my own house I walked to Sindhu’s- my neighbour and best pal. I knew she hadn’t reached yet, her school finished later than mine, so I placed the chit underneath her doormat hoping she wouldn’t forget to look.

And for sure 3.30 sharp my doorbell rang. Sindhu was all hippity-hoppity excited.

“Come na...I can’t wait to start learning to ride your cycle.”

This was our plan – to learn cycling this vacation. Our aim - to one day be able to peddle our way round and round the football ground nearby. With our pony-tails held high we wanted to make the onlookers gape and make them say: “Aaha!”

What was so great about that?? I dunno...but it sounded cool then.

HEAVE HO! I was pushing the cycle while Sindhu rode. 
 “Girl ! Your definitely not feather weight!” I said. ”Hey your feet don’t even touch the ground....ha ...ha..might even take another vacation Sindhu!”
“Oh yeah! So now let’s see you ride” she retorted.

Oh no...Me and my big mouth! But of course, I knew the theory - push the left peddle and then lift the right leg to push the right peddle...simple. Maybe just maybe, I can.

I mounted the cycle. You know, I did get the first part right... my brain just didn’t signal my right leg though. And suddenly, Sindhu came running towards me. She was upside down though. Then I took a look around. Hey! The earth does revolve. Did I just prove Kepler right?( or was it Gallileo?... Copernicus?)
Yes, I had fallen. My knees hurt. Blood was oozing out. And then my ‘smart’ brother (I don’t know where he came from suddenly!) says, “Why are you whimpering, Idiot, It’s only small wound!”

And then I got up. I swirled the cycle around and broke it into two. “AARGH”, I cried like the Incredible Hulk and hit his head with the bigger half...okAY..okAY..Maybe that was what I wanted to do. As of now imagining would suffice. That was the end of day one of cycle practice.

Day two was definitely less enthusiastic. Within half an hour we were dead tired. And then, we heard a familiar “ha..ha..ha” from behind. It was Selvam Annan, the compound watchman. We called him Selvannan for short. It seemed like he was in a good mood.

Neenga cycle savittan padkingla? “ he said. (Are you learning to cycle?)
Sindhu was a Rajnikanth fan, so she always understood him well.
“Aaa Anna!” she replied.

Kavalapedate..nan une.” (Don’t worry I’m here)

From day three on, Selvannan was our coach and mentor. He would effortlessly support the cycle while me and Sindhu took turns. We practised for hours. He would constantly pipe in “Savitte!...Savitte!...Savittamma!”
 
Day four, the same “Savitte!...Savitte!...Savittamma!”

Day five, Selvannan suddenly let go! It was a miracle. I managed to “Savitte” all by myself. Sindhu followed soon.

Day six, the cycle yielded like a horse to its master.

Day seven, we were riding with one hand... no hand...standing up...What not!

Day eight, FOOTBALL GROUND! Wow and today more people were there. But first we had to make sure Selvannan wasn’t looking. I took the first chance. Yes! Finally! I finished half a round. But nobody even noticed. Not even the football players. Then I tried the stand up act...and yeah...people were looking. But why were they smiling? You know the ‘the-making-fun-of’ smile. And then I looked a better look around. OO MY GOODNESS!! I stared at the green banner that glared back with the letters F-I-N-A-L-S. I had obviously disturbed the big match.
I then saw Selvannan waving at me. He was becoming more frantic by the moment and his expression was by no means pleasant. I cycled back to the compound. I noticed Sindhu was nowhere to be seen...humph...Wait till she asks for my cycle ...I’ll show her.

All I know is Selvannan began with “Unekene paityama pudichirike?” ( Have you gone mad?). He ended with “Circusle join pananama?” (Want to join a circus?). All the while I kept my stupid smile intact.

Ah..well..at least I did cycle the ground..So I would call it- MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

KERALA CALLING


                        
When my father first told that I'd have to leave for India after my 10th ,I didn't believe him. Ofcourse,I had known it all my life ..but somehow I just wasn't ready for this.

No amount of tears or starvation would change the decision. But I was going to try anyway...and thankfully my Mum began to get worried.

“I think our daughter is going to starve herself to death.”

“Oh..don't worry.She'll come when she's hungry.”

That evening my father brought home Tandoori..CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT! TANDOORI FRIED CHICKEN! No I am not going to give up that easily.

Ok, maybe I'll just take a peep.

There, I saw my mother tearing away the juicy fried flesh from a bone of poor dead chicken.

..gasp.....YOU TOO MUMMY!!

I slammed the door shut,and my groaning stomach lulled me into sleep.But not for long .I was 2 a.m. I can bet Mummy left some over for me.How could she not..she's a Mummy after all.

I slipped as quietly as I could into the kitchen. My mouth was already watering..slurp Tandooori..wait till I get my hands on ya..

  OK  Fridge..' oopen sesame'...............

Noooooooo...the fridge was almost empty. Course it would be, we would be leaving in a day. But ..but where's my tandoori....grumble..grumble..Great! There goes my stomach again!

The only thing that saw my despicable state that day was an apple.

Fine! Apple it is..'an apple a day keeps the doctor away' ..my foot!

D-day finally arrived. Last calls to my best pals were finally made. I didn't have much time to think. Everything was happening too fast..sigh even the street lights looked as if they were waving at me.

At the airport, my friend was waiting to see me off. She gifted me a mug and then a warm hug

“So this is it eh? I'm finally going.”

Lo and behold there stood before me the majestic Air India .The Maharaja mascot with his twirling mustache gave me a smirk. I fastened my seat belt and watched on like a deaf mute as the air-hostess instructed how to pull out the oxygen mask in case we crash landed..an idea that seemed alluring then..She then pointed to the four emergency exits... ah..EXIT is it still possible?

YAWN...

Four hours later I could see the tops of coconut trees swaying like a dance and before long I would be stepping on the red mud of Kerala.

Strange. I am slowly being molded into this mud. My feet feel firm on this ground. It's been seven years now. I  can now live without Odomos, I can hear the music of my mother tongue and finally, can understand any local joke and laugh my heart out. I've learnt to go with the flow and yet be the stone that impedes it.

What else can I say....”I'm lovin it.”

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

RIDE TO PERDITION


                                                  
“See it’s really simple. First you’ll see the white cross, then the violet house and..are you even listening?”

“Umm..yeah.”

“..and when you see the river,get up. Go near the door and tell the man this is where you get down.”

“Why can’t I just get up when the bus stops?”

“Because things don’t work like that here. People don’t wait for nobody. Got that?”

“But anyway you’ll be there na?”

“I won’t always be there.”

These were the words of my brother that kept irritatingly echoing in my skull when I made my first bus ride …ALONE!!

The thing about Kerala is that everything is green.So green you can’t tell one green from another. Trees ,trees and more trees. No matter how hard I try to fix a landmark,I get confused.
Which is why that sunny Sunday morning I looked shocked to hear my uncle saying that he couldn’t drop me to church because he had work…hmph .. work on Sunday!
Oookay getting  on the bus was easy. I had always gone to school on a bus. But..but..school buses didn’t have scary conductors. I watched him slide like an expert from one seat to another giving tickets. How simple it was for him. I kept telling myself ‘Relax..all you have to say is one Pallipadi..one Pallippadi..one..”

Click..click..”Where to?”

“One Pllu..”

“What ?”

“One Plla..”

Silence.

“Do you mean Pallipadi sister?”

I nodded.

Dear God,why was I even born?

Ting …ting..

“You can get down here.”

Till death do me apart...I shall never forget PALLIPADI !



Sunday, April 10, 2011

THE BATTLE OF THE ST'S


                                            
Students Bus Concession, that's what 'ST' stands for .I dunno ..don't ask me how. But with this, a student need only pay 1/4th of the bus charge. And fortunately, when bus fares in Kerala hiked, the ST rates continued to be the same. Cool? Think again.

There are three golden rules to remember if you are an ST ( i.e student giving bus concession). I had to learn it the hard way.

RULE NO.1  An ST Must Act Blind

Nowhere is it written in the law that an ST cannot sit, but it is accepted by all conductors, drivers, most full ticket passengers and some ST's (traitors!). So when you are an ST, and see a seat...then what are you waiting for ? Sit! You must now close your eyes to the people glaring at you for 'stealing their seats'. It will be easier for you to pretend you are asleep. Of course, an ST must have have the courtesy to get up for an old or pregnant lady..(but so should every other able body in the bus!)

RULE NO.2 An ST Must Act Deaf

 Sometimes the conductor will get grumpy when he sees an overflow of STs or most of the time he will have no reason to. Nevertheless,never mind him..Never.
              
 He will be jabbering about what a pain in the neck you are, and even curse your ancestors. At best, look out of the window at the beautiful and blaring traffic. If you can't, because you are too short and therefore crushed between people's shoulders. ..then..may the Lord hear your prayers.

RULE NO.3 An ST Must Be A Superman/woman (Why On Earth should ST s Be Dumb??!!)

This is the most important step.The code of law does not specify that an ST can only get in after full ticket passengers, but the code of conduct of everybody makes it so. And if you act like a revolutionary by getting in first...you'll end up being the martyr.

And thus, an ST must have the innate ability to jump on to the bus as soon as it takes off. You might be dangling from the bus, but the your old powers from planet krypton will help you hold on...just like it helped your ancestor ST s. Do not be afraid when you brush past the motorcyclist. You will get used to it and perhaps even get acquainted.

Once you've mastered these, then I will  be proud to announce that you've just survived the Test of Survival.

Congratulations. Lets celebrate.
Cheers to the brains that thought of ST.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

*THE MYOPIC ACT*



Not many people get second chances so why me?

“Really man....acting is not my thing !”

If you knew about the time I did make an attempt to act, you’d bet on millions that I wouldn’t agree to act again ....but heaven of heavens I DID!

When I was in eighth, we did a skit. When I say ‘we’ I mean the teacher and her favorite student pals. Ordinary people like me who were just too ordinary , stayed back, looking on with guppy eyes for a role. My role lasted half a second , but to me it was the world...

Reader, if you’re still wondering what it is ........let me just tell you, that until that day I was invisible in my school .. but from that day on, I wished I were invisible ...Well maybe it wasn’t that bad.. apart from the fact that I forgot my half-second dialogue... could actually hear the ‘thud thud’ of my heart.. and all on a sudden .. just wanted to sit on a TOILET!...

Ah well .. that was long ago .. things are different now .. yeah...RIGHT!
From the moment I agreed to my friend , I could actually picture the whole thing happening again, as if in rewind.

I had never heard of Girish Karnad or as a matter of fact his play ‘Hayavadana’. But yeah.. it was interesting. I had never put in so much thought into what I read.. But with this play, it was a philosophical journey.. The play was an allegory of the warring impulses of the mind and the body.. Don’t get the wrong idea .. I got back to earth pretty soon. They said I couldn’t just sit thinking but had to act right away..here comes the tough part..GOD HELP ME..

So there I was, poor poor meek ME, donning the role of the all powerful Bhaghawata, the narrator, the action controller.. the by all and end all of the play. So how on earth did I manage? ..Believe me when I say this .. if you got a major problem of stage fright and are short sighted (not just simply short-sighted ,but short-sighted enough that whenever you’re in the vicinity , your dear friends yap, ‘ Hey here comes ‘ soda glass’!!).. then mate, let me tell you that you are blessed in disguise. When I removed my sodaglasses...er .. spectacles on stage..Voila! I couldn’t see a thing (DUH!) ...and seeing nothing enabled me to be stop being self -conscious.. .. things were different now, because I was no longer afraid...and was actually enjoying the moment...What a pleasure it was to hear them all applaud and find my sweat sweet.

‘Hope’ my friends, ‘hope’ and you’ll get a success formula.....stupid it may be .. you never know.. it might as well work ...

Friday, March 11, 2011

A,b,c or d



“Have you gone for coaching classes ?

“No.”

Three hours later...
“So how was it?”


“Not bad”

“Really!’ 


The Kerala Entrance Exam was my first attempt at a competitive exam.Well I wouldn’t call it a bad experience...it was the WORST !
I had not studied a word for the exam.But I would not call that a crime.Even if it was a crime,then I gotta say ,I had committed it a long time back...way back to my L.K.G. when I was a regular ‘F’ grade getter.No,I do not have a robot’s memory to remember all this... but I do have a dear mother who treasures priceless childhood stuff ( like all mothers) which includes (unfortunately!) report cards!...And I also have (unfortunately!) a dear brother who makes it a point (like all brothers) to remind me about it.And so, for the exam ..I just darkened some circles.

Yes it was sure tough, but if I told that to the guy next to me ,he'd only think I had made a 'few' mistakes. You see,that's the problem with looking like a nerd - anybody would think I had read the entire volume of Brittanica Encyclopedia. Sigh! It's hereditary and because I want to uphold this nerdy tradition words like 'not bad' really come in handy.

So what else did I do besides swatting flies?? I went into a deep.. looong sleep:

I was on soft cushiony cloud floating...la..la..la..hey! there goes my brother!

"Hey bro! What are you doing here?"

"Shut up Stupid!"

"umm..ok."

la..la..la.."Hey Mummy ,Pappa..you too Uncle!"

la...la..la..hmm.. Why does my face feel wet ??

GOODNESS GRACIOUS ! I got up with a start. No,the examiner didn't pour a bucket over me, I actually..YUCK! slept over my own pool of saliva. Did the guy see it ? THE HECK I CARE!!


And so when got out of the hall, I saw thousands of parents waiting with hope for their children , and amidst them my Uncle. He had taken two days off from work.. for something I was cent percent sure I wasn't going to get through.

"How was it ?"

"Not bad"

I could feel the ball of guilt in my throat. I took an oath that day-" I shall never write a competitive exam. 

Of course it didn't last long. If all promises were kept ,the world would have been an honest place to live. I'm still at the game. It looks like it'll go on unto infinity...from bank tests to PSC's right down to anything I can mark as "a","b","c" or "d".

LONG LIVE COMPETITIVE EXAMS!!!