Thursday, August 27, 2015

Onam - Pookkalams Holidays and more

A very happy Onam to one and all.

Having spent the first decade and a couple of more years of my life in Kerala, the word brings on a tumultuous onslaught of memories.

Onam always announced the arrival of the first set of holidays for the academic year with the Quarterly Exams safely behind us in history. Being Tamilians, Onam was not a part of our religious agenda of celebrations. Nevertheless we did pitch in with our neighbours in some of the festivities especially the pookkalam (floral carpet) outside at the entrance. My mother would not compromise on the rice flour kolam she would draw outside 365 days a year. It actually helped as we would have a readymade design that she would have already drawn and we just had to fill it with flowers.

Our house had quite a few trees, but not many floral plants, and hence there was a real dearth of flowers. I remember once walking to my neighbours' houses, requesting permission to pluck flowers. I still remember the delicate expressions their faces carried, knowing not how to politely refuse the request of an overenthusiastic child, as they needed the flowers for their own Onam decorations. My father as always pampered me, buying flowers for me on his way back everyday. Those were definitely better as there were a very colourful eclectic mix.

The last four days of Onam including the main day were state wide holidays. My father, a lover of travelling, wanted to show his wife and children as many places as he could and made good use of the opportunity. Two of my cousins who worked then in Kerala would come home and we would set off somewhere together. Ooty, Kodaikanal, Goa, Mangalore and surrounding places are some that we visited. Oh!! Those were the times!!

The legend I heard of as a child of the king Mahabali visiting his beloved subjects confused me. Mahabali, the ruler was so righteous and great that there was absolutely no bad things happening during his rule. Hence the Gods wanted to end it as there was an imbalance on Earth and approached Mahavishnu who took the Vamana avatar and managed to send the poor king to the underworld. Why are the Gods being so mean to him? He is only being good isnt it?was something that I kept looking for answers.

We once had a Pookkalam competition in the school where every class had to make the floral designs.  After the results were announced, we lined up and headed back to our classes.While 5A stood admiring their work of art and taking pictures around it, we the little hooligans of 5B happily played, kicking the flowers towards each other and damaging the design beyond recognition(We were in a girls only school hi hi) . Our teacher came back to chaos, with flowers strewn all over the place, undone plaits and unruly hair on our heads and absolutely no trace of our creation.  The worst part happened when she was giving us earfuls left and right. I have no idea what triggered it but she was scolding us and I laughed at her face. You can imagine the repercussions that would have carried.

Coincidentally a photograph of this class 5B got posted by someone on Facebook yesterday. God bless the website for bringing about nostalgia all over the world.(To hell with its negative effects)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Sparkly White and Soft??

When I was a little girl my morning routine comprised of a very important activity.
There was a huge washing stone in our backyard near the well.With a paste laden toothbrush in my hands, I would sit on it every morning and sink into the pleasures of daydreaming. I really cannot recollect what would have occupied the mind of a seven through ten year old, but I do remember that it was a deep meditative state, till my mother's soft, loving "Jayashree , are you done with brushing?" slowly evolved into a loud, irate "JAYASHREE, YOU ARE GOING TO BE LATE TO SCHOOL!" The latter used to have just the right ingredients to jerk me back into reality.

Toothpastes were a fascinating buy in the monthly grocery list for us kids, especially with the foray of the television into our peaceful lives. The advertisements roused our curiosity, and we would want to try every new toothpaste on the supermarket shelves. I was fascinated by the way a huge clove transformed into the paste on a gigantic brush, or a laser ring of protection formed around the doctor and his family, not to mention the amazing colourful world of gel toothpastes.

On more than one occasion, after a very blissful afternoon nap, I have groggily headed to the bathroom  for brushing without realizing that the mild rays from the sun were falling on my face from the west and not from the east.

This morning I got aroused pretty early from my sleep and was tossing and turning in my bed.Just yesterday, I read somewhere that you get heavier with age mainly because of the amount of things your head carries.  Nearly a quarter century after those blissful moments on that washing stone, I have enough things on my head that are definitely not as enjoyable as good old daydreaming. Of course, when the problems are really big, you usually would be in action, and would hardly have any time to worry, like the lives of so many we read about in the news. For the rest of us in a 'not so bad' state of life, we worry a lot more than required, but that's how we are wired and lets leave it at that.

Deeply lost in the arachnoid webs of my mind, I decided that it was time to do more harm to my system with my daily intake of caffeine, aka my darling cup of morning coffee.

I headed to the bathroom and got armed to provide twelve hour antibacterial protection to my incissors canines and molars. As I started to brush, a weird smell wafted its way into my nostrils. Whats that? I wondered. My eyes fell on the unfinished laundry I had piled up in a bucket nearby "Any wet clothes in there?" None. My tongue finally decided to get active, and a disgusting-taste-signal ran through my nerves to the concerned corner of my brain, which as per protocol, promptly reacted with a "puke immediately" response. I managed to somehow control the regurgitation, spat out the white foam in my mouth and vigorously rinsed. What on earth was that?

Thats when I read the name CLEARLY "Clean and Clear Face Wash". Hmm, so what I applied on my brush was indeed white in colour instead of my usual green paste. I was not becoming colour blind as I had assumed and thats a blessing, thank heavens for that.

It tastes horrible, trust me and so an important advise I would like to  impart to my fellow human beings

"Never ever leave your face wash close to your brushing set"

Anyways there would be no dark spots on my tongue for the day.

As for the bacteria, I doubt if they would dare to approach my mouth for the next few days. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Two times one is two together!

After my home, the place that I spend a lot of time in a week is our neighbourhood supermarket. Boy!  I go that way for something totally not related to grocery shopping and I will not return without stepping inside. Somehow, there is always something to buy.

There is a tall lean dusky girl employed there whom I have been encountering for the past couple of months. Her age must have a close proximity to twenty and she is quite brisk at work and always helpful. She always bears a lovely smile and would always rush to my assistance to keep my little girl occupied while I finished off the billing and payment at the self check out counter.

The other day I had just finished piling up my shopping cart; As always with a few things I had come to buy and a whole lot of other do-I-really-need-them things I just found on the racks during my visit. I was busy bending over the basket and taking the items one by one for billing. I nonchalantly lifted my gaze and saw her standing a few feet away from where I was. I smiled, continued with what I was doing. I was about to pay when my eyes drifted towards her again and Lo! I was in for a surprise. There were two of them. A kind of clone image of her stood next to her; Same height,weight, complexion, hairstyle, way of dressing and above all photocopied facial features!  'Wow' I could not help but exclaim out aloud. I finished my payment and moved towards them pushing my stroller along.

I popped the question they must have heard a zillion times since they entered this world together. " SO you are twins?" . They nodded with a grin.

"Who works here?"

"We both do!" they said in unison.

"Oh!Have I been seeing both of you without realizing that its two people or was it the same person?" I was really not sure, they were that similar.

"Thats me" one of them answered.

Some things in life just make you feel good and smile though you are totally not related. The concept of twins is one such. Its kind of an 'Aww!So Cute' thing.

Ask the parents of any of these siblings on earth. Well, "Aww Not that cute" would be their reply.Raising and taking care of one baby is a hectic round the clock job. Imagine two of those!

I have two cousins with twin children one each on my maternal and paternal side. To begin with , during the gestation itself its double the load on the mother. The most likely mode of birth would be a caeserean section, that too slightly before full mature term to avoid later complications. Then all the work aka bathing, changing nappies, feeding, cleaning and everything baby related is double. That is if they come with the tag 'We are the best behaved and easiest to maintain infants'. Considering the quintessential unpredictability infants possess its much more than that. Half the night goes sleepless pacifying a screaming child while his twin is huddled snugly and fast asleep. The wailing infant finally decides to sleep and this act behaves like a silent alarm and wakes up his sibling. By the time the second one is pacified, its time for the sun to greet everyone.

The expenses as they grow also arrive in double - Right from diapers all the way to their college education unless colleges come forward with a enroll one-other goes free system.

I had a teacher with twins during my schooling years. Every evening after school she would feed them some food and I clearly remember how much running she would do after them. They would always be running at 180 degrees from each other and away from their mother and the food. We loathed her for the pain she used to be in our class but this scene always evoked our pity.

Well these are some challenges but its indeed a beautiful thing.  Seeing two of your kids achieve all the milestones together and blossom into fully grown individuals is a difficult yet highly rewarding experience.
The bond the two of them share is something unique. A companion for life enters the world together with you and stays together in thick and thin. They are partners in everything from classes to play time to smearing mummy's lipstick all over the dresser.Usually there is no sibling rivalry. They know each other in and out. In fact some studies suggest that a sort of telepathy exists between them.

To all mothers and of course fathers who are parents to twins, Kudos to you for all the efforts.

To the twins themselves, well, you are 'Aww So Cute!' I have to agree :D

Image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young at

Monday, January 26, 2015

Smile...Thats easy! :)

My son's new school starts at 7.15 . For someone whose bones are at their laziest avatars when the sun rises, this seems to be a great motivating factor. These days we are forced to wake up before 6 and suddenly the day seems longer and better.

We the parents, now manage to squeeze in some time for a morning walk after dropping him. We do have our second bundle of joy and mischief aka my daughter, tagging along, and so we take turns looking after her in the play area while the other walks around the park.

This morning during my walk, I came across a gentleman mostly an octa-or-nonagenarian holding onto an iron railing . He was quite frail and was doing a slight exercise trying to bend his knees.

Senior citizens trigger a lot of thoughts in me. After having been probably bold, strong, agile with a lot of likes, dislikes, interests , experiences and achievements, one fine day man gets pushed to a stage where he gets weaker day by day , more and more dependant on someone. These folks would become witnesses to their loved pals departing the world one by one. They would become more and more isolated with the younger lot having very little time amidst a whole lot of other things they are running after. Unlike earlier generations where the most aged in the family held an authoritative hand, today's seniors mostly spend their time without interfering much in the lives of their progenies.
In the years immediately after retirement they do have good times as they would probably be healthier. They group with friends and have a merry time. Once their health starts deteriorating and they are unable to go out on their own , isolation strikes hard.

 A girl was standing a foot behind him. I reckoned that she was their domestic helper whose main responsibility was taking care of him. She was making sure that she was there to hold him lest he should lose his balance and fall. An empty wheel chair patiently waited near them.

The old gentleman looked at me and I smiled at him. He gave me a gentle  nod of acknowledgement. The maid behind joined in , gave me a big smile and added a 'Good Morning Ma'm'.

It felt good. Period.

I had no idea who they were; knew absolutely nothing about them. Two individuals whose life paths had been brought together in a bond for some reason. I, a complete stranger to them whose path had crossed theirs in that one infinitesimal moment. Yet these subtle acts of ours, a smile, a nod and a good morning wish filled me with so much positivity. I went on and smiled at whoever I met in the park that day and at the end felt really rejuvenated.

We Indians very rarely smile at strangers. Possibly the crime stories that we hear makes us vary of them. There is a difference between genuine warm gestures and acts done with an intention to deceive which we as adults should definitely be able to perceive.

A warm smile is a beautiful thing. The receiver feels good and when reciprocated it lifts up the spirits of the giver too. We all have our own reasons to brood, to worry; Every single one of us, there is no exception to that. We all have our own share of troubles here and no one here is walking on a bed of roses. A smile from the heart maybe can spread some cheer around. As mentioned in so many fwds which we first received as emails, sms es and then on facebook and these days on Whatsapp

A smile is a curve that can set many things straight. 

Be generous with your smiles. That is a tiny contribution we can make without much effort to make the world a better place.

Image courtesy of kookkai_nak at

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Happy Bhogi and Pongal...Let it go !!!

Today is the day preceding Pongal or Sankranti and is called the Bhogi festival in Tamilnadu. Its a day meant for spring cleaning. People discard unwanted old stuff and some light huge bonfires and throw all things meant for disposal into it.

On my way to the market to get the quintessential sugarcane and turmeric leaves for Pongal festivities tomorrow, I heard some radio jockey mention that its also a day when you can cleanse your mind and spirit, let go of all all unwanted thoughts and start afresh brimming with positivity.  A beautiful thought indeed!

We all would have some regret or the other when looking back at the past. 

I could have chosen a different career. I made a mistake there and that has caused a huge financial loss. I should have never broken up with him/her. I should have taken up that job opportunity.  I shouldn't have done this. I needn't have done that!  So on and so forth!

The list is endless. I read somewhere recently that things happened the way they were meant to , with precision and accuracy. You were in the places you were meant to be and you have done things you were meant to do! Its all part of a much higher plan and direction.

It does sound a bit spiritual but its simply stating one thing. Let go of whatever from the past that you are clinging to.

Wear positive spectacles and view your own life and those of others. Live and let live. Forgive, forget and spread love and be warm and compassionate. Happy Pongal and have an amazing 2015.