Sunday, December 28, 2008

A trip to Tiruvannamalai

Like all things in my life, it started as a whim and slowly progressed to almost a fanatic desire. I wanted to go to Tiruvannamalai and right now at that. When I put forth my idea to hubby dear, he was enthusiasm personified. Obviously! Considering how he likes driving his new toy every opportunity he gets. I was more than happy to indulge him (indulge, you ask? Ya ;) ). So we started planning. I “researched” for hours and hours together on the Web – read blogs on others’ trip to Tiruvannamalai, zoomed in and out of Live Maps and Google maps a million times, assembled a big map of the Bangalore – Tiruvannamalai route in Photoshop, and lived and breathed Tiruvannamalai half of my non-sleep hours! After our initial plan to go on last Saturday failed, I was crestfallen. But I quickly gathered my spirits and we decided to drive down on Christmas day.

It turned out to be a fantastic trip that all of us immensely enjoyed. We started at 5:30 in the morning and took the NH7 - NH66 route. Reached Tiruvannamalai at around 11 AM with a half an hour break in between for breakfast. It was a smooth ride until Krishnagiri where NH7 branches off into 2. And there came the first hurdle of the day. Which road to take? After asking the highway patrol police, who seemed to be placed there by divine grace just to give us directions, and ignoring their advice (blame me!), we continued on NH7 a few kilometers. Doubts starting assailing me – I was not sure if the research and the subsequent route I had chartered out had been correct enough! The road seemed to be leading to Dharmapuri!! Finally, I found the courage to tell my by-now-glowering hubby that we got to turn back and go the way the cop pointed out! Oh, the atmosphere inside the car would have melted glaciers, believe me! I decided to keep my mouth shut after that! At least about the route! So after coming back on the NH7 Krishnagiri outpost, we turned on to the Chennai/Pondicherry route. This is the road that turns left from NH7 near the Krishnagiri flyover – you have to take the left road that goes below it. Continue on for a km or so and there are clear signs that indicate the route to Tiruvannamalai/Pondicherry – a right diversion from the Chennai route.

From this point on, the roads are both heaven and hell. Heaven because they are so scenic surrounded as they are by ripe green trees and plants. Hell because the roads are so bad that they don’t let you take your eyes off them to enjoy the scenery! It’s sure bad for the driver at least, as hubby put it. The rest of us were happy enough clicking away to glory save for the jumpy ride now and then. Oh, ya, I almost forgot to mention - though there isn’t much traffic, you have to watch out for the country-buses which believe the entire road to be their property. We saw an Alto that was almost pushed to the extreme side of the road by a speeding bus! And watch out for those I-can-give-the amusement-parks-a ride-for-their-money-potholes! The road doesn’t improve much until Chengam though there were freshly laid stretches of tar in-between. We stopped at a nice deserted spot for breakfast and then continued on to Tiruvannamalai. Found a decent parking place adjacent to the temple wall and we were happy! I, for one, had thought it will be difficult to get a parking space near temple and was feeling blessed. Least did I know what was in store for us at the end of the day. More about that later.

As soon as we entered the temple, we were awestruck by the grandeur of the gopurams. Man, there were so many of them.

After standing in the queue for what seemed like over 2 hours (being a holiday), we finally had our darshan and came out both tired and elated. Kid was happy having seen Monkeys and their babies. We were happy to find a Sweet Lime Soda pushcart waiting to serve the exhausted devotees right inside the temple!! After having our fill, off we went to the next item on our agenda. The Girivalam - Circumambulation of the Arunachala hill. Usually it’s done by feet but considering that we planned it to be a one day trip and having a kiddo in tow, we decided to do it on four wheels!

We reached our car and were dreading getting inside it what with the sun having been directly blazing over it, when we got an even more rude shock. Our front tire had gone flat! Hubby almost fainted. His new toy and god how can this happen to us? When we pulled in to park, everything was perfect. So what would have gone wrong? We had no time to waste and luckily found a tire shop very close by. We were thanking our stars that there was one so close by when the owner of another parked car in the same line came over and said that even his tire had gone flat. Ha! hold on now, do we smell a rat here? even his tires were in good condition when he pulled in and by the time he came back it had gone flat. Now, it can happen to one car, but to both? And both of them being the only KA (Karnataka) vehicles in that line…. ha, something fishy indeed! This was almost proved when the mechanic pronounced that nothing has happened to the tire – somebody has just let the air out. Hmm, somebody was playing some bad pranks. Very bad. Maybe even the mechanic shop people. Who knows? It would definitely be a good business model. Coincidentally, on our way back after Girivalam to the temple, we saw another KA Mercedes noisily sledging the road with a flat back tire!

We did not want to dwell on it too much. But I did think about alerting somebody – but who? As tourists usually do, we continued on way to Girivalam. We found all the 7 lingams easily except for the Indira Lingam – which seemed to be off the main roads. We even took a nice lunch break at a wayside bull temple.

It had become almost 6:30 by the time we reached back to the temple from where we planned to retrace our steps to NH66 to Chengam. Since Thirukovilur, the next item on our agenda is a good 35 km away and it wouldn’t have been possible to return back the same day if we had gone ahead, we dropped that part of the plan and headed back home to Bangalore.

The trip back to Bangalore seemed to be the longest one we had. All of us were tired and sleepy. More so, hubby dear who did not have a back-up driver in any of us. Imagine! We had got up at 3:30 in the morning to cook/pack our breakfast and lunch! Just the stretch between Krishanagiri –Hosur- Bangalore took us over 3 hours! Seems hubby almost fell asleep lulled by the hypnotic highway lane lights. So he decided to play safe and keep the average speed to 50 at the cost reaching home faster with a possibly nasty experience on the way. We reached home dot 12 in the night. Ha, it did not turn out to be a one day trip after all :)

We were a happy lot. And I cannot be more contented that my whim has been satisfied. Ha, the pleasure of seeing your desires come true. :)

The route we took:
Bangalore – Hosur – Krishnagiri – Uttangarai – Chengam - Tiruvannamalai

What we planned to do:
We had planned to visit Tiruvannamalai, do the Girivalam, then drive down further South 35 km to Thirukovilur to see two more ancient temples and wrap up the trip with a short visit to Manalurpet (another temple) on the way back to Bangalore via Tiruvannamalai,. That was the plan. But unfortunately, we couldn’t go to Thirukovilur or Manalurpet. Perhaps next time!

Other sources that will help if you are planning to trip to this place:
Ravi’s account of his trip to Tiruvannamalai
Team-BHP forum discussion on possible routes
Wiki on Tiruvannamalai
“Official Website” of the temple
Another nice Website for information on this place that also provides the temple events calendar, info on nearby places, etc
Girivalam route map

The pictures from the trip are in the sidebar including the map I made from Microsoft Virtual Earth. Enjoy!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Stop failing us, you morons!

I've always felt that exams and rankings are way too over-rated. For heaven's sake, how does it matter if you get the first rank or the last rank? Most often than not, being evaluated, compared and ranked lower than their friends make kids more depressed and at times even reluctant to try competing anymore.

I was fortunate enough to have parents who did not care much about me getting the first rank in class. Yes, they did praise the first-rankers and gave me not so subtle hints that they would have liked a child who came first in class but they never pressurized me really. Or maybe it was just my attitude of not giving anything too much of a damn. So I grew up a happy child who never minded being ranked 10 or in the worst case 16 in a class of 40. But there were others who were not so fortunate. They were taunted and ridiculed by parents, teachers, and friends alike for not studying as well as they should. Never mind they were good at something else. Slowly, these guys who were "average" to begin with became "dull" and even "failed" and were retained in the same classes while the friends of the same age progressed to higher classes.

Not anymore. There is now hope. A new Right to Education bill has been introduced in the parliament that forbids schools to fail children under class 8. What a fantastic way to ensure children get enough time to gear up and get on par with their peers without the impending axe of failure. I hope the bill gets passed!

You can read more about the bill here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Readying for take off!

I have been thinking about doing my own thing for quiet sometime now. It started around one and half years into my first job after MBA. I quit with just one offer in hand. I joined the next company, worked for a day, and literally ran out of the place in the evening with no intention of returning back ever. Maybe I was hasty but I sure wanted to heed my intuition when it said get out right now. I called up the guy who hired me the next day morning and gave him a cock and bull story about shifting my base to Paris because my husband got transferred! Ha! Ha! Ha! I don’t think he really believed me. No one would have! But he let me go easily enough. Thank god! And then I realized because of my own impulsive compulsive need to quit my first employer fast and then my “intuition” with the second one, I was now stranded with no job or offer in sight. Jeez, did regret my decisions or what? I sat at home the next three months, unemployed, newly married in a new house, with a busy husband, and slowly went out of my mind. Thankfully, I got a job before I went completely mad!

The next one and half years went blissfully. Well almost. And then, boom! I started getting itchy again. Woa! What is this with me? The same story repeated! Yes, believe me you. The same fast paced resignation, cajoling my manager to relieve me fast…. and the entire works. But unlike last time, I stuck to the next company I joined and did not pay heed to any voices. You see, now I am a little more experienced at sorting out the voices of my head. So here I am, few months into a new job and already feeling the itch  For heaven’s sake, none of these jobs seem to fit me properly! Either the managers lie about the job description or I get disillusioned with my own role! So I got thinking………..

What is the remedy for my itch? Quit working, stay at home, take up gardening, some community work if possible, and have a blast! Yes? No! Unfortunately, I don’t think that will work. In fact, even if it works, am not sure I will be happy with it. I got to work. But at my own terms, in my own time, as my own manager. Yeppe! That will sure make me happy. So here goes my attempt at being self-employed. I am wary to use the “E” word just yet. Maybe I will muster up enough courage and strengthen my idea enough by next year but not right now. I am content to have a goal to become self-employed first before going all the way to being an “E”.

So here I have the plane (idea), the website (runway), and the fuel (energy and time) ………….. now I just got to figure out how to get my plane to take off! Wish me safe travels!

Oh btw if you are interested, u can maybe take a look at my idea here? And let me know what you think of course.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A fresh start

Yep, thats what's this is going to be. I've got all the right reasons - new year, birthday, idle time in hand...

So what better way than to get back to my first blog and start blogging all over again? Hopefully, this time around I will muster up enough enthusiam to keep it going regularly. And obviously since am older and wiser now, this blog shall serve it's true purpose of being just my writing pad and nothing else. No frills, no false make-overs, no preening, no PR. No siree, absolutely not :) I hope.

All the old content of this blog has been moved to my other blog which I have choosen not to link from here for obvious reasons. While that will be my "non sense" version, this one here will be the "sense" version!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Even after death


It was dark. But not so dark that you can’t see. He gets up from his bed and moves towards the window and lifts the curtain to peek around. Slowly. Very slowly.

Would she be here today? Will she dance like she did the other time? wondered Rue.

It was totally accidental. There was a power cut and Rue couldn’t sleep that night. The hot air combined with the musky smell that lingers long after the cleaning lady leaves makes the room unimaginable without the constant drone of the ceiling fan. He had got up to open the windows and let the sea breeze in. Little had he known what awaited him the other side of the window. And he was hooked after that.

It became a ritual, power cut or otherwise. He would wake up at 12 every night and move towards the window. Slowly lift the pretty hand stitched curtains that were once his mom’s pride and gaze down at the garden. Some days she is there and some others she is not. On the days that he finds her, she usually dances around the bushes picking the flowers or fruits that had fallen on the ground and stacks them in the corner.

Papa always thinks it’s the work of the musk-scented lady and uses it as an opportunity to talk to her, thank her and of course touch her. He thinks Rue does not notice but Rue does. Rue can very well see that his papa’s damp hands on the cleaning lady’s shoulders actually wish they were a little lower. He had seen Papa staring at the lady’s chest on many occasions. Even when mom was around. Mom had not minded. Rue had. He does. He hates the cleaning lady.

On this particular night, she is not there. In fact, Rue had almost given up hoping to see her again ever since last month’s incident. On that day, Rue had been foolish enough to call out to her. One look at Rue and she just vanished. Vanished into thin air. Rue wished he hadn’t done that. But he had been so sad and so delighted - both at the same time. He had wanted to feel her arms around him once again. Have her kiss him one last time. Snuggle against her breasts and feel like a baby again. Oh, if only…

Stepping up his courage, Rue moves away from the window towards the door. Should he go down to the garden? Maybe she is hiding somewhere waiting for him to find her. That had been their favorite game after all. Playing hide & seek around the banyan trees.

The garden at this hour does not seem to be a friendly place. It hardly resembles the bright cheerful place of his memories. There are dark corners that seem to be arbouring evil things. The wind moving in and out of the banyan roots create a strange symphony almost like distant human whispers.

Rue picks up his nerve and steps into the middle of the yard. He calls out. Once, twice more. Nobody responds. He turns away dejectedly. He better go to sleep – he has a maths test to give tomorrow morning.

Wait. Was that his name? Is somebody calling his name? Nah. Imagination. He climbs the final steps into the house and closes the door quietly. After reaching his room, all he is able to do is fall on the bed and sleep which is weird. One would have expected him to cry. Cry like only a ten year old can. For his mom. But strangely Rue feels good. He nods off with a silly smile on his face.

Below, unseen by Rue, she dances. She smiles and she knows that she will always be there for Rue. Even if he can’t see her. Moms have an intense love towards their children and a fierce need to protect them at all times. Sometimes even after death.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Six months down the lane....

I am going to quit regular work.
Setup an office for myself at home complete with broadband, hi-fi laptop, refreshments, and such.
Start my own freelance sales support services business to be named "blah blah services" (am kidding! about the name!)
Browse the Internet all day long without any restrictions.
Participate more actively in social events (including photowalks, unconferences, barcamps, etc, etc.)
Live life my way which means sleep when I want, go out when I want, play with kid when I want. Like right in the middle of a Monday.

Period.

And the reason am articulating it here is obvious - I want to commit it to myself. I want to crystallize the thoughts and give them the energy that only belongs to the written word.

"Oh, ye Intention of mine
Written you are now
No escapes, no blaming lunacy
Like it or not, you are stuck
So you better materialize"

Friday, September 5, 2008

Bliss

(Continuation of "Waiting for pain")

My first impressions of the room were of its brightness and tidiness. I felt like a queen of the olden days - being transported in a royal carriage. Only, the royal carriage has changed now but everything else remained the same. I still was the chief guest here. And the people in the room were waiting for me expectantly.

As soon as I was carried in, everybody rose including the all in white lady in the corner. She seemed to be one who was most looking forward to see me. The white clad lady came near and told me un-assuringly, "if only you had got the pain earlier". I became confused. What did that have to do with anything? And for heaven's sake, how long should I endure? Can't they get it over with as soon as possible? All that mattered now is the pain. Nothing else. Not the baby. Not my life. Just pain. Get it over with. Period.

"Nope! not possible. The other players of the game are out doing god knows what but we can't begin till they are here. Please wait", says the lady in white.

What seemed like a million years passed but in reality was just a few minutes. Then....

"Good Morning there, how are you doing today", came the booming voice of another white clad male form.

What a dolt. What a seriously stupid idiotic dolt. How does he think I should be doing? Please....... I have no patience. Will you get on with whatever you came in here to do?

"Sure, alright now curl up like a baby and turn over to your side, will you?.... ya, nice and slow.... good..... no, no, curl more, come on you can do it...your knees should touch your chest..."

What the heck. What the heck man? Am I training for some curl up contest here? I am more than ten months long and my tummy resembled a mini elephant and this dolt expects me to curl up so that the knees touch my chest. What a seriously idiotic dolt. Really.

He didn't wait. For my knees to touch my chest. Before I knew it, there was a blur of activity, and a needle which I can only imagine to be the size of a hose pipe was poked into the center of my spinal cord.

"COME ON, MOVE. MOVE. Lie down straight. Turn back. Come on. Quick. Quick. Quick."

Man, what has got into him now? If he wanted me to turn back so quickly, why have me trying for a knee chest fusion? I didn't know how to react. The most obvious would have been of course to turn. But the brain does tend to go into a freeze in the face of such high power commands. Especially if comes from a towering white masked face. A second passed. And another.

"MOVE".

This time the command was not directed at me. The three nursing/medical students around me got into action and before I knew it, I was on my back again. And all of this must have taken five or a maximum of six seconds. In all this excitement, I had forgotten the pain. The damn pain. Oh, there it is agai.........

Bliss. Oh man, I didn't know bliss felt like this. oh........

"You could have done this earlier", I muttered deliriously. The anesthetist just smiled back in answer. Now don't ask me if I can see thru his mask. I just knew he smiled. And if he didn't, he should have.

"Hi there", came a gentle voice.

"This is the pediatrician" introduced the friendly giant dolt.

I don't know why but suddenly I started thinking of him as my friend. Not everybody on earth can give you bliss. This one did to me and now he is a friend. Just like that. I smiled back at him hoping to get back into his good books. Can anesthetist read the minds of the people they anesthetize? Or worse yet, do the anesthetized start blabbering all their thoughts? I hope not…

I continued floating in the realm of white clouds and pleasure with but just a dull awareness of the present.

And then I started blabbering.

But the docs didn't seem to be paying attention. Another white lady joined the group and everybody rubbed their hands in anticipation. Probably they list abdomen cutting as part of their hobbies. Good for me.

What felt like a cold swab of alcohol rubbed against somebody's rubberized skin. Oh, no, not somebody else, it must be mine. But I don't feel it. Then how come I know it…? Whatever. Don't' ask too many questions.

I opened my eyes a little deciding to discover the world outside bliss. A nurse put up a plastic curtain between me and the ladies standing by my hips.

"Don't. Don't do that. I want to see it.", I said.

"It is just to protect you. You know, all that blood splashing on your face will not be nice", came the reply.

Oh ya, I wouldn't want the first thing my baby sees to be my bloody face.

My eyes moved here and there as if they are not attached to their sockets. They decided to linger on the high-beam focus lights on the top providing illumination to the people cutting the abdomen below.

Hey. Hold on. Hold on. I can see it. Yuuuuuuu…….. I can see the docs cutting the abdomen below reflected in the side polished mirror surface of the lights. Wow! How cool is that? I can watch myself getting operated. Wow!

Should I? What if I faint or something? Come on, that is ridiculous. I can't faint. Not with anesthesia. In fact, it's downright impossible to faint if you have been given anesthesia and partially kept awake. Ok, that's solved then. And I am also not the puking time (Did I tell you that I puked all of 3 times during the ten months pregnancy? And those 3 times were because either I overate or I ate very less. Not because of pregnancy related nausea!). Which all means I can watch it. Yo! It would be oh so cool to tell the others that I watched my abdomen being cut open and the baby being taken out. Wow! I just can't get over it.

Hey, wait. Hey eyeballs of mine, wait. WTH. What do u think you are doing? Are you my eyes or somebody else's? Who is the master here? I said who is the master here? Stop roaming around and get back to those lights NOW. Stop it….

The rebellious eyes didn't listen. They just closed down. Can you believe that? Your own eyes not listening to you?

I could hear the docs talking somewhere inside a drum. A drum that must have been kept 10 kilometers away. Then I remembered something. Oops, I better tell them now before I forget.

"Docs, can you please show the baby as is to me? Fresh from my womb with the blood, vernix and all, please. No washing", I commanded.

I think they agreed. Because the next thing I know is the doc saying "Ha, there it is".

I had to ask it. Though I knew it would be a boy. "Which one is it doc, boy or girl?"

"Girl"

What?????????? WOWWWWWWWWW. Amazing.

I was the happiest person on earth at that moment. Believe me you. And I don't think I will ever be happier than that in my life. Ever.

It was such a wonderful surprise to get a girl baby after ten months of believing it to be a boy. Don't ask me why I thought it will be a boy. Just suffice it to old wives tales.

The sweet Pediatrician got her close to me, and we kissed. Not the pd and me, dolt! The baby and me.

He had her give me a kiss right on my lips. J I tasted salt and I tasted what will turn out to be a million more happy moments in life after that. My baby was finally here. Healthy and unaffected after all those struggles in the womb.

"Why do all women cry when they see their baby for the first time", murmured the pd. I couldn't murmur back anything in reply.

Bliss.

Edited to add: First two parts here and here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A million reasons

I cry because I grew up too fast and I can never be a child again
I cry because I can never bawl like a kid in front of the entire world
I cry because there’s no one to wipe away the tears
I cry because nobody notices the damp pillows in the morning
I cry because there are a million more reasons to cry

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Photo series I : Birds

Here's one of my most favorite bird in the world. The Green bee eater. I just adore them! They are so beautiful....... have a look at some of the pics I was able to take.

The Green Bee eater


Monday, July 28, 2008

Remembering Grandpa

(Continued from the previous post)

Come summer holidays, me and sister packed up our gears and headed to Perumbur. My grandpa’s and cousins’ place. The days were heady playing all day, and the nights a little scary without mom around. But in one word, it was fantastic. So many of my life’s small milestones were achieved in Perumbur. Learning to cycle, learning to play cards, learning to make milk koa, learning to make lime juice, learning to tickle-play, learning to live without mom around, learning to lookup rahu-kalam, learning to sing, learning to believe in religious things, learning to believe in supernatural goddess and their appearances, learning to watch frogs, learning to plant roses, learning to ……….. so many things :) Did you read the post about gardening? I now remember that the foundation of my gardening started in my grandpa’s house. My grandpa’s house was an individual house (meaning not an apartment or something similar) that stood surrounded on three sides by gardens with all kind of plants, bugs and things. So no wonder that I got hooked to gardening at a relatively young age.

So what do I remember of the times I spent with my thatha? In no particular order, and no thought to readability, here goes…

  • Hiding behind my mom, scared to look at the tall tall man who she called appa
  • Envying my cousins and sister who enjoyed a jovial familiarity with him which I could not
  • The reverence, respect, and at times the fear with which the others treated him with and spoke about him
  • Playing cards all day long – In fact, I learnt to play cards sitting under his chair. He was one who taught all of us to play and the mean old devil always said “even if you put sand as your next drop card, am sure to win!”
  • Learning to swear like a sailor :) When the game of cards did not go to his liking, my thatha always let forth a slew of curses and bad words which we the young kids were only all too ready to pick up. We used to memorize those words, and wait for the right opportunity to ask an elder for its meaning. Man, when they heard us kids uttering the words with glee, they sure had an heart attack!
  • When someone had the misfortune to commit a wrong act or say the wrong thing, he/she fell under the nasty tongue of my thatha. I loved watching him curse them with a wicked pleasure that am sure no kid should enjoy
  • Waiting for him to command my ammama to make sweets for us kids
  • Watching cricket with him and getting bored to tears
  • Sometimes, due to his inability, he depended on others to feed him or give him his drink. At times, that “others” became me. It was usually coffee – and oh god, I used to be so scared. I used to take the cup till his mouth, tilt it a little, and pour a spoonful very carefully into his open mouth. Splutter will come an expletive. “Enna ma, you are feeding me as if I am a dead thing or a young baby, tilt and pour more for heaven’s sake, will you” he used to say. Or “what the **** is this? It tastes like cat’s pee! Can’t you bring it when its real hot?”
  • The interrogation of our report cards, how we are studying, what we wanted to become in life…… you get the drift
  • I used to get so incensed when he spoke ill about my paternal grandparents
  • The many tales he used to regale us with. He had a dramatic way of narrating things and usually he told us incidents from his life and duties when he was an employee at Railways. His recollections of his father and mother and his family while he was young. The days when he could afford everything they needed for the month under one rupee…
  • Oh yes, how can I forget? The one thing we really really looked forward to when we went to his house was the money he used to give us. Without fail, we used to get a hundred rupee note – oh, how we used to treasure that. Sometimes, he handed out smaller sums asking us to buy ourselves cakes and chips.
  • Helping him do his exercises and physiotherapy
  • Watching chithi help him with bathing, and other activities
  • Feeling sad for him
  • He always used to wait for us at the gate when he knew we were coming. And when he sees the auto stop in front of the gate, he used to call out in a booming voice, “va ma kanna”
  • Envying him his green eyes – and scolding my mom for not inheriting his eyes and passing it on to me!
  • His advice to always be independent, not depend on the husband, and save for the rainy day
  • And so many more things……… I guess I can keep writing till the day ends

Sadly, when we grew up, we spent less and less time at his house. Instead of every other month, it became once in six months, and more recently, almost once a year. In fact, the last time I saw him was over a year ago when I had gone to show him his great grand daughter (my kid). He seemed very happy. And he finally realized that I had made something for myself and had not wasted my life. I could finally spot a bit of respect in his eyes for the life I had made for myself. I proudly told him about where I work and what I do and he was like “ahaaaaaaam, that’s good”.

I think we will miss him. When we go to Perumbur now, we will have no one waiting at the gates for us. No one around to fear and dread. No one to learn expletives from. No one to play cards with. No one to tell us tales.

We will miss him.

An ode to my grandpa

The day began like any other ordinary day in the mundane life of just another normal person in the world. I went about the daily stuff with the usual worries over stupid things that really matter not. And when I received a call from my sister, I cut the call thinking that I will call her back to save her the few coins. After all, right now at this stage of life, I can afford them more than her. The first clue that all was not well was when I tried calling her back after a minute and found her phone engaged. Mentally chiding her for her lack of patience, I kept my phone down only to pick it up right back when she rang again. Ha! Persistent sister! I picked up the call looking forward to her cheerful hello and perhaps a hour long talk to soothe the souls. Her first few words shocked me into silence. My first reaction, unlike what you might expect which is usually disbelief, was a strange acceptance. Govindachari thatha passed away this morning di, cried my sister. The phone can be so inadequate at most times, and this time it was really over the top.

I remember my thatha as an authoritative and arrogant man who probably always stood out in the crowd, his demeanor only accentuated by his light green eyes – a rarity in this part of the world. He was my maternal grandpa, a strong guy until his fifties when he suddenly met with a serious accident that damaged his spinal cord. A freak accident really – he had gone shopping that day to bring in some veggies for a special Sunday lunch, when an immature young kid lost control of his bike and rode it straight over him. First degree spinal damage. Complete immobility – total loss of hand control and a moderate loss of leg control. The arrogant strong man succumbed to a dreary life bound to the bed and chair.

He had worked all his life in the Southern Railways, a so called lucky central government employee. He climbed his way in the corrupt ladder to eventually retire as a senior level officer. It was the first weekend after his retirement I think (not sure) – the fateful day of the accident – and the family wanted to celebrate it with a special lunch. Not to be. He ended up confined to his bed, and would have stayed there for the rest for his life if not for his rigorous self-control and discipline. With the help of physiotherapy, exercises, and his younger daughter, he eventually regained control of his legs and could move about almost independently. His hands were still frozen like claws due to the nerve damage, but he tried hard to at least eat on his own if not perform other activities. But though he conquered the bed, his home became his jail. He never could regain his youthful strength back to go more than a few steps outside his house.

He had three kids – two daughters and one son. The eldest of the daughter was married to a traditional staunch religious (iyengar) family. The second daughter was married to her mom’s younger brother – who was miles away due to his job – so she elected to stay with her parents while both of them met up only during the weekends. And the son decided to go oversees in pursuit of better opportunities and eventually became a green card holder and an American citizen. My ammama i.e my grandma, I oh so remember her fondly, is a kind lady who was very devoted to the various Gods, Goddesses, poojas and other rituals. She doted on her grand children, her dominant husband, and in short, her family. I think she was content with just those two – family and Gods. No other life. I don’t think I can ever ask her questions such as “were you ever discontent with the life you choose”. So I will never know for sure.

The younger daughter sacrificed her life, and remained with her handicapped father – she looked after all his needs and he her children’s. My grandpa taught, preached, inspired, and guided the life of her two children both of whom later grew up to be reasonably admirable individuals in the society. It was his way of paying back for the relentless care she bestowed on him.

As is bound to happen, old age caught up with everyone. He turned eighty few years back and continued to live on. Bitterness started flowing freely – after all how long can you accept being left out of the fate’s “to die” list. It must not have been easy – not at all. It came to a point where he literally wished for death every day am told. It finally decreed to grant him his wish.

He died yesterday, the Sunday, 27th July 2008. After over two decades of life limited by the results of that one fateful day. The reason for his death is not clear – should probably suffice it to just old age, and the weariness of living in the slowly decaying body.

They say that you better not speak ill of the dead and if you must speak at all, speak only the good. So I shall. Though minor thoughts of his arrogant actions creep up from the young corners of my mind, I shall endeavor to paint only the best picture of him here, as I hope I have done so far.

As mentioned previously, he was an arrogant man – but kind I think. I do not remember much, if at all anything, of him before his accident. Those memories are very dull & weak and not to be relied upon. So I shall leave them be. Instead, let me pull out the stronger ones out and describe them here for posterity’s sake.

Though I couldn’t go down and pay my respects to the old man (due to the choices I have made in life, I have been rendered 380 kilometers away from the family I was born into), I have my own sadness. It is nowhere near to my mom’s, chithi’s and others. I was never close to him. I was more attached to my paternal grandparents. But like all grandparents, whichever side they belong, time does make them fond to you over the years however bad you might have perceived them to be while you were young. So, I remember my grandpa fondly. And when I recollect the happy summer days at my cousins’ place, he is the hero who rules over those memories.

So here’s to the central figure of all my memories of summer holidays. Grandpa, I cannot say that I loved you. I cannot say that I will miss you. But what I can say is, you did make to a difference in my life though I know not the magnitude of it. And for those times, however small they were in time’s measure, you were my hero. The hero who I imagined fighting all the corrupt bad guys. The guy who had to struggle against all odds. In retrospect, I do feel like murmuring those inadequate three words. I loved you.

I do hope you learnt all the life lessons you needed to learn in this incarnation and your soul is finally lighter for it. I feel happy for you, grandpa. You succeeded and brilliantly at that. I hope you are where you now need to be. To the lifetime you led, and the memories you have left behind in everybody’s mind……………

Please know that you were important.

To be continued.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Questions?!

Mail#1
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I have a rhetoric question for all of us here. Take a minute, think abt it, and write a few words in return if you can.

  1. Are you happy with leading the life as you are? As in going to work, working for someone else, spending the well-earned money on frivolous things and deriving great happiness out of small things, etc, etc.
  2. What are your dreams? What do u want to do with life?

I for one, though happy with my life, still feel there is something else out there. For instance, i want to take up gardening and tarot reading very seriously. for some reason, everywhere i turn, i stumble upon gardens. So I am planning to take up a horitculture course sometime soonn if things go well :) Who knows, maybe i will quit work, hire a vacant land, and start a nursery some day :) And thats the most impossible thing that can happen in my life. I would be delighted i think if such a thing happens. So unfathomable a change. yet so delightful to me - even in thought :) Can you think of something life that? which is so un fathomable but yet a slim possibility for that exists - which will definitely make you happy........

Write back guys :)
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Mail#2 - Reply from Mr.X
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Before I answer ur question, ponder over this question….. (Actually I hate whatever I have written…but this is what my alter-ego asks me all the time )

Assume in a year or two, you quit your job, buy a nursery and start gardening and also become an expert tarot reader. Lets say all your family is extremely supportive and happy about ur decision and also there are no financial or emotional issues due to your change in track.

Now after all this, after a couple of years, lets say you start realizing that gardening or tarot reading is NOT what you wanted to do…..you get bored of doing it….and you also see all your friends and colleagues as managers leading big teams, doing highly complex work and travelling places and you realize leading a dynamic team, facing and solving complex issues and working under pressure is what you really wanted…that is what actually gave you an adrenaline kick and fulfillment which gardening or tarot never gave you…… Then what would you do?

“The Alchemist” says that the real discovery of the treasure was the journey itself, and the knowledge and findings acquired during the journey. The man finally realized that the treasure was right in his backyard and he finally comes back to acquire the treasure…..

But in your case, even after all the gardening and tarot reading (being the journey to find happiness) you finally realize that the “treasure” you really wanted was to lead people in a big organization and be on top of the ladder, would you be able to come back to the treasure????….if you take a break from your work for 2-3 years, would the company you work for ever take you back at a level to make you lead people? And even if you do join back, wont the people working with you now, be working above you when you come back? Wouldn’t that give a feeling that the treasure is lost forever?

They say "Treasure lies where your heart belongs"…..but the important question is “Would we ever know for sure where our heart belong?”
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Mail#3 - Reply to reply
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I'm glad you brought up that question. Thank you for trying to play the devil's advocate.

Now here's my reply.

I've got two answers to your question. The first answer is the most simple one and is something that the general janta will find easier to digest – perhaps thinking "ha! Finally! She gets off her high horse!" And the second answer is what my ego will force me to write shortly. Without further ado….

The simple answer:

I will regret what I did – that is leaving my current occupation and going after a fancy. There are two possibilities – I would either return back to the grind mill, plead and beg without appearing to, to dumb bosses to bring me up to the level, and try to get a semblance of what I had previously. Yes, every day I will dream of the colleagues, who were working as my equals but who are superior to me now, dying in mysterious accidents or getting involved in tragic incidents, rendered unable to return to work. Voila, I step up to fill their shoes. Justice restored. Or I will toil extra hard till I reach at least a level (which naturally would have come down!) I feel that befits me. I will write off the two years of gardening/tarot to experience – no one to blame. I will die happy, knowing that I had the courage to return back after my mistakes, and I will ask my daughter to pass on the proud story of her mom to all the future generations.

The other possibility of course is a sad one. My ego wouldn't let me return to the familiar world at such a disadvantaged position. My ego will cry, "life is unfair" and I will continue to brood all my life. I will tire of gardening and one fine day, I will write you all a mail posing the same rhetoric question – only this time, the gardening might become…any wild guesses? Yep, writing! I will tell you all that I knew all along that writing was my true calling but that gardening was something I just had to try. I will try to forget I ever liked the grind mill….. I will try my hands at a hundred million things including writing and will keep posing rhetoric question to all the souls within shouting distance, with an evil hidden intention of bringing the same unease into their life. I will ask them, "Are you really doing what you want to do?" and I will be satisfied even if they spare a minute thinking of an answer. I will blame myself my entire life and die totally unsatisfied that I failed to follow my dream.

Now, for the other answer – which my ego shall write. Apologies if I offend anyone here.

Mr.X, how conveniently you have sidestepped my question. Applauses!

Though admittedly your retort does make me squirm uncomfortably for a minute or so, it essentially lacks one main ingredient – the insight into my brain and complete life experiences– the knowledge of what makes me tick and what makes me mad; the knowledge of my strong desires and even stronger denials, the entire works…

So for the benefit of all, I shall reveal something that you may all not have really cared to know about – but I insist – and you are forced to read - that I never ever return to my past. It is not a matter of ego. No sir, it is just the way my personality is. And I do not regret. If I had given up anything midway in my life, I firmly stand by the decision of my past self and believe that she did what she did for the good. And I shall forever forgo that particular treasure in my back yard. No regrets whatsoever. And I have all those people and circumstances that make up my past to thank for – for making me what I am today.

That brings me to the next blip in the smooth screen you have painted. Your email seems to portray that everyone has access to only ONE treasure. One true calling. And that there is only one place your heart can belong. According to my beliefs, that is absolutely not correct. Your fundamental assumption that there is only one treasure makes the entire scenario oh so two dimensional. Where is the third, fourth or the other million possible dimensions? What of them? Or at least what of their concept? Ya, I forgo one particularly beautiful treasure through my action but I am so sure that there are millions more equivalent such treasures out there in my back yard or why back yard, out there anywhere in the world. And when I realize that I have forever destroyed that one particular treasure in my backyard when I was ploughing the ground to create my garden, I shall stand still for a moment in my life surrounded by absolute silence, and regret for just one heavy moment. I will cry, I will weep, I will mourn and I will grieve. Then I will come out of that silence. I shall stand tall again and I will become oh so happy. My experiences, and my mistakes, have made me better today than what I was yesterday and I will be glad of them. I shall cheerfully carry along, with no regrets whatsoever, and no thought spared on the treasure lost, and go in search of the other treasures. Maybe, I will forgo all but the millionth treasure but I will have hope that there is still one left. I go on. Life goes on.

Would we ever know for sure where our heart belong? No, we won't. We can only live for the moment and hope idiots like me and you stop asking questions that cause but the most minutest blips in this vast universe. We just carry on. And for entertainment, we restore to drafting emails as long as this one that makes the ego go "ummmmmmmmm".
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Friday, July 18, 2008

Waiting for pain


So there I lay, all alone in the labour ward waiting for the pain to come on. All the others ladies who came in with pain, came in, screamed their heart out, sobbed at times, and left happily with a baby in their hands. And I lay there throughout the day with no sign of labour whatsoever. The nurses came regularly every fifteen minutes for the checkup and it was the same story the whole of the day – no, am not feeling any pain. No discomforts either. If you will let me, I can perhaps even get up and dance. But no pain. No, I don’t want to pee either. No, no, no.

Finally, one of the senior nurses got totally worked up and came near me and forcefully asked me to get up and go pee. Even if I didn’t want to. The explanation was you will feel pain better if your bladder was empty. Now, why didn’t you tell me that in the first place?! I would have emptied the bladder every minute if that will bring on the pain. I gingerly got down from the table/stretcher and sat down on the portable commode they got me. It was so embarrassing. There I was, all capable and perfectly fit, and yet I was forced to use that thing. Yuck! After about a minute or so, I was back on the table, back to gazing at the ceiling all day long. Still no signs of pain. Finally, and thankfully, the night dawned and I was asked to return to my room. They have given up. Either this lady is totally immune to the medicines we are giving her or this baby just doesn’t want to come out right now – that was the judgment for the day.

I wearily returned to my room, and was immediately surrounded by concerned in-laws, some relatives, and my family. Everyone had the same expression on their face – which seemed to be pityingly saying “she is going to end up having a caesarean after all”. I was so angry. So damn angry. At those faces, at the medicines which were not strong enough for me, and at just about any thought that entered my mind. Why the heck can’t I get pain like any other normal woman out there? What did I do wrong? Yes, I never did those exercises the doc taught me, yes, I never swept the rooms like everybody advised except at the end, and yes, we were too afraid to try the natural induction method. But THAT IS NO REASON FOR DENYING ME THE PAIN WHICH SHOULD HAVE BEEN MY BIRTH RIGHT. Maybe, there is still hope. Maybe the medicines might start working in the night – late effect. Maybe, maybe, maybe…… I was so tired of waiting for the pain.

Then I remembered. From the moment we discovered we were going to have a baby, my one thought and wish was for the baby to be the nicest person on Earth. I didn’t want him or her to ever cause another human being any pain (Ya, I know it’s impossible but one can wish, can’t they?). So in all my mummy talks and the conversations I had with my as yet-unborn baby, I constantly emphasized my desire for how I wanted him or her to be – to love everyone without being partial and to try to never cause anybody pain.

So, maybe, my baby didn’t want to cause me the pain that will be inevitable in a natural delivery. Maybe my sweet little one was so concerned about causing pain for its mom that it decided to stay inside, and keep both of us happy. Little did it know that it has to come out one day, one way or another and what’s more, the doc sure won’t let it stay inside even a day or two more than necessary. In my case, I was lucky enough to find a doc who waited over 10 days after the given date for the baby to make its own way out. But even she has her limits. And 10 days it was.

Surprisingly enough, the next morning came very fast – or maybe I feel so in retrospect. Anyway, I was determined to invoke the pain at least that day. In spite of everyone’s advice, I decided to take bath, put on a pretty new nighty, and got ready for a whole new day – the day my first baby shall be born!

There was still one more procedure to try, said the doc. We can opt for a local application of an inducing gel which has been known to work for many for whom the other medicines don’t work. So there’s still hope. I went into the labour ward again – but this time, the procedures were not so simple. And this was local application to boot – you can guess the amount of trauma I went through. To give you an idea, the doc asked four of the assistants to hold both my legs firm while she did her duty! This one is a tough case, she murmured laughingly. Post that procedure, things began to move fast. Too fast. I started getting contractions. Mildly at first, and then increasing in strength. I was happy. But not for long. The student doc came over for the regular foetal heartbeat checkup and seemed to find something wrong. I could tell by her expression, though she did not utter a single word. She went a little away from my earshot, took out her cell phone, and murmured something into it. Then, with a decisive nod, she came back to me again, measured the fetal heartbeat, and came to a decision immediately. What happened after that seems like a nightmare. A foetal monitor was rolled over, and multiple cords were attached to my tummy. I was asked to press a button every time the baby moved and warned strictly not to press the button accidentally. The machine beeped constantly and I could feel my heart beat starting to gallop away at a crazy speed. Was something wrong with the baby? Please, no, not now. Not now after waiting for it eagerly all these days and just when I could have had it any minute. God, please no.

I can’t go into further details – but suffice it to say that I became a major emergency case. My pulse rate went down, the baby’s hear beat apparently started going higher than it should have been, and I couldn’t breathe properly. They gave me a stabilizing shot and asked me to return to my room till they could buzz my doc and have her come over. A kind nurse offered to have another kind nurse come over to my room to fit an oxygen mask on me – but I would have to wait a bit. Do continue breathing though – even if it’s difficult. And I was dismissed.

By this time, the contractions were almost unbearable. I almost fell down a couple of times on the way back to my room. My husband was there, waiting for the happy news. He was shocked to see me return – and when I told him that the nurses were trying to reach my doc, and he better go over to her house to get her right away to the hospital, he was even more shocked! Then I told him, that it’s going to be a C-section after all. I was trying to be brave but the sudden avalanche of one contraction after another took their toll. I went into high panic which didn’t help my pulse rate one bit. I screamed at him to get the doc as well the nurse to fit me the oxygen mask at once. He ran away and I was all alone again. The oxygen nurse didn’t turn up at all – but another one did. She was actually a messenger – “they are calling you back to the labour ward” and off she went without even bothering to find out if I followed her advice. I somehow managed to reach the labour ward and the high drama began again.

Finally, after what seemed like ages, my doc came in, did a few checks, and pronounced just two words that dashed all my hopes – “Prepare her”. They did the usual things that are required before an abdominal surgery and before I knew it, I was being wheeled out of the ward and into the operation theatre. All I remember of those few minutes were the faces of my dear ones looking at me worriedly, my mom praying desperately, and my sis running to keep up with the moving stretcher to put the perumal kumkumam on my forehead, and finally my husband with tears in his eyes. I think he was so very afraid. Of loosing me or the baby. But I had no time to spare a thought for him. The contractions were becoming unbearable and all I wanted then was the operation to begin and get over as soon as earthly possible.

I was wheeled into the operation theatre and transferred from my stretcher to the operation table. I saw my doc, completely covered in her operation garb, sitting in a quiet corner waiting for the other surgeon, the anesthetist, and the pediatrician to come.

I lay there waiting…….. Waiting for my baby to finally come out.

Edited to add: Continued here

Monday, July 14, 2008

My kannukutti

Duh!

I raise my voice to get my point across and to convey how much I am hurt.
He sees it as "You are shouting so that everyone can hear us; Are you trying to act overly dramatic?"
Tears start forming in my eyes intentionally/unconsciously and am overwhelmed by the emotions – self-pity, hurt, loneliness….
He dismisses it as “ Don’t start crying for such small things; If I can cry like you, even I would”
I lie awake half the night contemplating why my life took such a bad turn. I think up plots to correct its course, in the process dampening the pillow a little.
He turns on his side, and snores away to glory.
Unable to bear the silence of the dead of the night, and worse, my own thoughts, I decide to take matters into my hand. I turn to my side and doze off!
The next morning, with a naughty glint in his eyes, and an attempt to patch things up, he says, “I didn’t sleep half the night because somebody sure was snoring away to glory”
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Giving and taking

If somebody doesn't give gracefully and lovingly, you don't feel like taking their help/offer/aid, do you? There is so much said about giving but so little about taking. I do not mean the act of just taking without thought. But rather taking when you have no other choice, taking when you have to take, taking when you must. When giving has to be graceful and loving, taking definitely has to be thankful and accepting. Perhaps it has to be so... even if the former is not as it should be. But there are times when the receiver feels so incensed by his/her situation that taking doesn't happen very peacefully or cordially. Especially when the receiver feels in his mind that the giver is not fully willing. Perhaps in the corners of each of their minds, they both do not want to be there..... do not want to there in that particular situation. But circumstances, the need for appearances, and the society's dictates force one to give and the other to receive. Of course, the the giver and receiver frequently exchange roles but the acts remain the same. It becomes an endless cycle. Both of them forget the love, grace, and the gratitude part of the equation. What started out as a willing relationship slowly rots into dissatisfaction-infested remains. Oh yes, there are attempts to get back into the initial state - either by one or both the parties. But inevitably, they slide back into the routine. I wonder what it will take to break the monotony....?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Short story # 1

The dog sat there wagging his tail. I think it was waiting for its master to return back. It was past 8 o’ clock – far later than the usual five that she is back. I was there – hidden in the corner out of the dog’s eyesight. I’m sure it knew I was there. But it didn’t bother to come investigate. It was awaiting her more. The breeze blew in from the slightly open windows and brought with it the smell of hot coffee and stale masala. The faint noise of the neighbor’s vessels could be heard as well. The dog’s ears twitched for a second then everything became quieter still. After a few more minutes of me observing the dog, and the dog observing the firmly shut door, I decided to get up from my desk. A minute later, I stood towering over the dog, all six feet 2 inches of me. The dog finally decided to acknowledge me and gave my feet a half-hearted lick. It gazed up at me – and seemed to be pleading to know where she is. I turned away not having the courage to tell it that she will never return. The dog must learn. It must learn to live without her. And it will soon know. It will soon realize that it was me. It will soon know...

Monday, July 7, 2008

What is Ayush homa?

We had Baby Rabbit’s Ayush homam this weekend. It went so amazingly well as expected – what with the beautiful surroundings of the Sri Govardhana Kshetra of the Udupi Sri Puthige Mutt and our wish to make it a perfect day. Before arranging this homam, I scoured the Internet looking for some information on what exactly is Ayush homam, and what kind of ritual/procedure is performed. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any place where the entire information is given in one single page. So we had to resign ourselves till we could go through the homam ourselves. So now that we have, armed with the knowledge gathered during the ceremony from the purohit/shashtrigal and from the various websites I read, we thought why not outline the procedure of Ayush homam here for the benefit of souls like me who seek to know more. So here goes. Do pardon me if this is not 100% accurate.

Ayush homa (also spelt to as Aayusha homa or homam)

The Ayush homa is performed primarily to pray for longevity and prosperity of life - Ayush meaning age or tenure of life, and homa, the invocation of the deity through a consecrated fire. Lord Shiva is invoked as Sanjeevani or Mrityunjaya, the devatha in charge of longevity. It is usually performed on the First birthday (Star birthday) of the baby. It may even be performed anytime later during one’s lifetime. The Ayush homa is said to have originated from the prayers of Markandeya.

Markandeya was the son of Saint Mrukandu who was destined to die at an early age of 16. On the proposed last day of this life, Markandeya prayed to Lord Shiva embracing the idol/lingam while Yama prepared to take away his life. Markandeya chanted the sacred Mrityunjaya Stotram praying for Lord Shiva to protect his life. When Yama tried to throw the noose around Markandeya’s neck, the noose also enveloped the lingam. Lord Shiva then emerged, angry and furious with Yama for trying to take away the life of his devotee. What ensued is a battle where Shiva is said to have brought death to the God of death himself (Yama). On the condition that Markandeya will be let free by Yama forever from the fate of death, Yama was spared his life. There are different variations to this tale, some of them featuring Lord Vishnu instead of Shiva. For more details, see here and here.

Before the homa is begun, the devotees performing the homa pray to their family/native deity or God seeking their blessings. After this, the couple/parents along with the kid are invited to sit facing the homa kundam or the altar. The altar is made of three parts
– The Eastern end is decorated or painted with five-colored Rangoli portraying a Mandapam (Mandapa) or Peetam in the bhoomi (Earth). The five colors are supposed to signify the five elements of nature. This will act as the place where Sanjeevani /Mrityunjaya is invited to sit and shower his benevolence from. This can be compared to the respect with which we treat our guests and ensure they feel special. Similarly, the God is also treated in a special way.
– The middle portion is where the Agni Kundam/fire altar is kept. The Agni is traditionally considered as the carrier of our prayers and offerings to the concerned deity/devatha. It is said that since these devathas are so powerful, they are not easily reachable to the ordinary man. The Agni acts as an easy and approachable intermediary who can pass on our devotion and prayer to the devathas. The Agni along with his brother takes our offerings to the Gods and leave behind the prasadam in the form of ashes. Besides the Agni Kundam is a small depiction of another Rangoli portraying Lord Ganesha.
– The other extreme portion (North-East) is where the Kalasham is kept. A Kalasham is a pot filled with water and covered with a turmeric-smeared Coconut surrounded by Mango Leaves. This is supposed to symbolize the sacred waters of Ganga and Bhagirati. To know more about Kalasham, see here.

The homa consists of three stages – Karmaadi (Karma + Aadi, the beginning), Karmamahdya (Karma + Madhya, the middle), Karmaanthya (Karma + Anthya). Karmaadi starts with the customary prayers to the God of beginnings, Lord Ganesha. This includes inviting the God to his mandapa/mandala/seat, praying and praising him, bestowing him with flowers and akshata, offering him the neivedyam, and imploring him to facilitate a smooth time ahead for the homa to proceed without interruption.

The purohit/shashtrigal also does what can perhaps be called transferring the power of attorney. Usually, in the olden days, the devotees performed by the homa or yagnas by themselves. But in this day and age with no training whatsoever in vedic literature, we rely on the few purohits/shahtrigals to do it for us. So one of the rituals in the homa involves the learned purohit requesting the couple to formally give the right of performing the homa to them who then chant the mantras on the devotee’s behalf.

After the Ganesha pooja, Sanjeevani /Mrityunjaya are invoked and offered their place on the Eastern end Mandapam made specifically for them. The homa continues with the purohit/shashtrigal chanting a series of mantras. While the main purohit attends to the Agni Kundam, two others pray to Mrityunjaya on the Eastern Mandapam and the Kalasham on the other extreme. The sacred fire is then kindled and various offerings are made. A favorite offering for Sanjeevani /Mrityunjaya is a mix made of honey, sugar, and ghee. This is offered to the Agni with the help of grass stems. The purohit/shashtrigal halt during Karmamahdya and ask the couple to pray for their kid’s well-being and ayush. It is said that the Gods are at their most benevolent self at the peak of the homa and praying to them at this instance is guaranteed their blessings. With the purohits chanting the mantras with devotion, and kindling the fire with ghee and offerings, the Agni burns bright and takes our prayers to the Gods.

The homa is concluded with Poornahuti or Purnahuti, Aarati and offering the Thambula(m) to the Agni. While the purohits continue with the last of the mantras, the Agni quietens down and becomes a gentle flame. Prasadam in the form of ashes from the Agni Kare distributed to all present.

The Brahmins are offered their dakshanas and their blessings are sought as well. (At the end of any auspicious pooja/homa, whatever the Brahmins say will come true. Hence the Brahmin blesses the kid and family with their prayers by saying “Manasabhista Praptirastu” – meaning May whatever you desire in the heart come true). All the elders in the gathering are also invited to bless the little one.

Ayush homam invitation

For posterity's sake....

PS: Conceptualization, design, and production - all by yours truly :)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Let's make some babies... of the botanical kind :)

My fascination with plants and other related beings started some 10 years back. I do not remember my first pot or plant. If I really try hard, I think I can hazily see a "insisted by mom" kanakambaram sapling standing in a lonely pot at the corner of the balcony in the dim corners of my brain! And if you are wondering what the heck is "kanakambaram", that's the Tamil name for Crossandra undulaefolia. Gee, I guess that's even more of a "what the whatever" ;) Before you pick up the nearest item and aim it at the monitor hoping it will reach me, the common name of the plant/flower is Firecracker. Can you believe that???? Such an exotic name for our kanakambaram? I wouldn't have thought of it in my dreams! This is the same orange flower that North Indians disdainfully say South Indians load their heads with. The same flower that moms and mamis pin on their young daughters' hair so thoughtlessly, never mind that the girls are wearing bright blue dresses! Gosh, those days! Today, I will run a mile if anybody even dares approach me offering "Firecrackers" for my hair. Oh my god, no ways!!!!!!!

I do have the nasty (or maybe delightful if you insist) habit of digressing, don't I? Hmm, where was I? Oh, ya..... I was recollecting my gardening history. So like I was saying, it began some 10 years back. Obviously started with a few cheap plants that I could grow myself without buying seeds from the nursery. Like delicious tomatoes. Over and over again. Tomatoes and more tomatoes. My balcony was full of them. I used to get up each morning and run straight to my crops. Was that a bud? Or was that a new leaf? Oh, will you look at those cutie-pies? Those beautiful, beautiful little yellow flowers! Should I help them breed? Perhaps take some pollen from one flower to another? (Those were the times when we were just starting with Botany lessons). And when my humble crop load gave a few tomatoes, I couldn't wait for them to grow bigger. I will choose one fine auspicious day (all in my small mind no thanks for that almanac), pluck them out gently and run into the kitchen offering it as a grand prize to my mom. Home-grown fresh tomatoes straight from the plant. No ma'm, you don’t have to worry about those pesticides. No need to wash them either. Cut them and put them directly into the sambar. Is it done? Ha! Give me a spoonful, will you? I need to taste my produce. Heavenly. Delicious. Oh, my dear tomato plant..... Thank you, thank you so much. Off I run back to my balcony, intent on sowing a few more tomato seeds! Little did I realize that my produce was one tomato in the lot of six that my mom used for that sambar.

Another favorite was "Table rose". I'm sure you will know this one. No, this is not the "rose" rose. This is table rose! Miniature flowers that come in light pink, dark pink, in-between pink, white, white with pink, etc, etc. The reason this is a favorite is of course because it grows oh easily. Even in a kotankuchi. For those who are Tamil-ignoramus, kotankuchi is the left-over shell after you scrap out every bit of coconut from it. A coconut shell, yes. For a kid, even kotankuchi can become a garden. Wow! That came out nicely! A new phrase I've coined all by myself. Go, figure! Better yet, go start using it giving me due credits.

And then there are various other plants which were little harder to grow with limited resources. But try to grow them I did. I remember the Ladies Finger fondly. The deep Yellow to Purple flower and subsequent tiny winy Ladies Finger :) Then there were the unsuccessful attempts to grow Coriander, Jasmine, and Roses.... ha, how can I forget those kakadas?

There came a stage when I used to beg my pop to give me some money to spend on pots, plants and seeds. The indulgent man that he was for his younger daughter, he used to give me the requested amount after a customary round of no-no and nah-nah. With a handful of money (read coins!), I used to skip to the nursery nearby and spend hours together enquiring about different plants to the old patti there. Sometimes, I even convinced the uninterested sister and friends to tag along. Wonder what they were thinking about me then? Probably a budding botanist (pardon the pun!)

Fast forward to a few more years later. My affair with our stationary friends continued uninterrupted across cities and across other people's garden. But then slowly petered out. When I shifted to a PG, I tried. I tried the kotankuchi method. But due to lack of attention, the table rose died. Poor thing. I do believe firmly that plants flourish only when you give them enough attention. And when I say attention, I do not mean water, air and fertilizers. I mean love. I mean taking time out to sit/stand beside them, caress them lovingly, and enquire about their health. About how their day went. About..... how a plant's life is. I used to do it. Grin, grin. And I used to love doing that.

The present day. Though there is a small garden in front of my house, I don't touch it. The big lady of the house along with her husband dominates it. There are only the usual decoration plants. One or two flowering kinds. Sadly, none of them are my kind (Like tomatoes!). But recently, I picked up some nerve, and decided to change the way things are. What better time than when the MIL goes on a long tour. I laid siege to the empty pot cramped between two huge crotons. Got overenthusiastic and sowed both chilies and guess what else? Tomatoes! :) Nobody noticed. Even after MIL returned back. Whenever I had time, I tiptoed to the garden and peered around the crotons to check whether my saplings have come out. They took some time but finally they did. Both of them. After a few days, the chilies became too much for my poor tomatoes. All the tomatoes died :( Only chilies left!

The envisioned future. A big big garden of my own. I shall be the queen and I shall reign supreme. The mister and mistress of the land. Everyone shall ask me permission before setting foot inside the holy land. Yes, including the dumb dog. Oh ye dog's master, you better ensure your dog poops outside before he ventures inside my land. Lest he soil my soil. In the worst case that that happens, I will make him eat his own stuff which I am sure he wouldn't mind anyway!

A garden. Oh, yes please, a garden of my own. A neat vegetable plot on one side, a few flowers spread here and there. One or two medium-sized trees. Some underplanting. And if the surroundings permit, a Mango tree. And I shall sit and pray each day for the birds and bees to come. And when they do come, I will hope with all my heart for them to return and make my garden their home. My little one shall play in their midst.

A dream. Almost a fairy tale. Perhaps I will secretly wish for the fairy circle too.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Shortlived hobbies, passions... call it what you will...shortlived sure they are!


One such hobby was Glass painting. I gave it up after I found out that glass paints release fumes which may not be good for the developing baby inside the womb. And am sure it will be a couple of years more before I pick up another glass to paint!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Celebrating birthdays

My baby turned one last Wednesday and what a nice day it turned out to be. Initially, we were not sure whether we really wanted to "celebrate" the 18th as her birthday. Back home, we (my side of the family) celebrate only the "star birthday" (the day when same star/planetary position occurs as it was on the day of the birth as per the lunar calendar). I'm not sure how hubby got the same idea into his mind - but good for me and my ideals! Anyway, this year, her "star birthday" is coming on the 5th of July. And that's when the Ayush homam is scheduled too. So what to do on the 18th? We didn't want it to be a non-event.

At the end, we decided to do what everybody does! Hold a small party for all the neighbourhood kids with games and such.

To start with, I began the day with applying "nalangu" to my little one. I remembered my mom religiously follow this ceremony for us on our birthdays, diwali and such. We felt so special at those moments. Wanted Baby Rabbit to feel the same as well. And what better time than her first birthday to start following this tradition?

At first, I wasn't sure what exactly to do! I searched the net looking for how to do nalangu - and at every page, I came across the same thing - the playful activities they do at marriage/wedding ceremonies. Nobody seems to talk about the "birthday nalangu"! I chided myself, took the phone and called my sis. After making her repeat the Telugu song that my mom used to sing while applying the nalangu on our feet a couple of times, I felt confident enough to do it on my own. Of course, you may ask why all this nervousness for a simple activity? Well, its not simple at all - not if you are trying to lay down a tradition to follow that does not exist in your in-laws place. And think! I had to "perform" before them - and do it with total confidence at that. My mother in law is a kind of person who can easily spot a phony/weak from miles away and make them her prey (wow! that rhymes... and I hope my husband doesn't read this post! gee!).

You will be releaved to hear that the Nalangu went amazingly well. Thanks to my daughter for pretending to be totally engrossed with what I was doing to her feet. Couldn't resist capturing those little feet on photo. Here they are...



In case you are wondering who is the big feet, thats her father. You can't apply nalangu sitting only one person. It's customary to have two people sit side by side (like an oppu ku chapan we keep in games I guess! hehe!).

After nalangu, it was time for hot oil bath for the princess followed by her favorite breakfast. Then on to couple of temples for the archanais. Then a furious round of shopping for party hats, decos, whistles, return gifts, game prizes, eatables, etc, etc. The entire afternoon went away in a blink trying to decorate the veranda and gift packing the "return gifts".

The party was a big hit. The kids enjoyed it loads and kept pestering us to organize more games for them. They were even willing to sing and dance to get the gifts! All in all, couldn't have asked for a better birthday for my baby.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Giving birth to Hippo kutti/Baby Rabbit

My baby turned one this Wednesday and I am not able to believe how quickly the past year has gone by! I still remember the agonizing days during the end of my term – how we (me, mom, sis, dad, hubby, curious neighbors... seemed like the entire world!) all waited anxiously for me to get just a tinge of pain. Day after day, nah make that minute after minute, my mom used to enquire “have you got pain?”, “Is your back paining?”, “Do you think you should take hot water bath to bring on the pain?” ... so on and so forth. I used to get so furious and had to consciously try to talk myself out of the red rage that I could foresee erupting. Poor mom – she was as eager as me to get the baby out. Perhaps even more – the umbilical cord connection between me and her never severed I think :) I am after all the younger kid and she was full of “can you bear the pain, my poor kid... Can you this, can you that... I pray to god...”

To continue with the tale... The due date given by the doc was the 4th of June. But we were kind of hoping that the baby could come out a little sooner – maybe on June 1st. Then somebody would sure have become overjoyed to have his daughter share his birthday. But alas! June 1st came and went and there was no sign of labor or even false pain!! So did June 4th. The trips to gynac became more regular – she was one kind old lady. I can almost say that I fell in love with her during those times – her kind words, encouragement, and not to forget unconventional advices like “Drink warm milk with two spoons of castor oil – am sure that will loosen up those muscles and bring on some pain”. Don’t be shocked with that last statement! I did drink that concoction – it went in smoothly enough with no side effects whatsoever (I have a stomach of steel!). But no pain. Not for castor oil, not for jeera kashyam, not for the dizzying walks on the terrace. Seemed like the baby did not want to budge an inch. Ha! That reminds me... Those continuous monitoring of the baby’s movements to ensure everything is alright. Man, that was a scary thing. One hour goes by, the baby is motionless and boom! all sorts of nonsense thoughts enter your mind... But never mind, let’s get back on track.

The days went really slowly. Each day, I used to wake up and think “yes, today shall be the day... I just need to concentrate and visualize going into labor – then its sure to start...” But however hard I wished or visualized, nothing seemed to happen. It was so hard - so mentally taxing. Nothing to do at home, no life or death emails, no colleagues in desperate need of help, no friends to chat with (they were all busy at office being needed by their colleagues I suppose!)... it's a surprise I didn't go mad at that time. And guess what? I naturally had to resort to bad moods and yelling at people. Even raising a hand or two at my poor nephew for his constant "running around" and "creating choas". But I do need to really thank them - my neice and nephew. Come three-thirty, they were there at my house straight from school, uniform, tiffin box and all.... to ensure their chithi is ok and to see if their little cousin had come out yet. My first kids they were and shall always be so in my mind. I have them to thank for my sanity today. Perhaps exagerrated a little but true enough.

Inevitably, a day came when the doc said it’s too risky to prolong anymore. It’s time for forcing it out!! That did not seem like a kind thing to do to the baby inside but hey what the heck, no amount of cajoling, sweet talk or threats seemed to change Hippos kutti’s mind. Yes, that’s what we used to call her – Hippo kutti and later Baby Rabbit. My clever hubby’s idea! No prizes for guessing how the first name came about! I had bloated up worse than the aunty in Harry Potter!

So after seeing good dates, once in the Tamil calendar, and again in Kannada calendar (my mother in law didn’t want to be left out in the decision making for the future progeny of her family!), we decided to wait till “amavasai” or “no moon day” passed in both the calendars. Got admitted to the hospital the early morning of 17th June 2007. I felt so alive, so eager... I was like “yes, this is it, this baby can’t say no to the doc, it’s got to come out at least now”. I climbed onto the examining table with aplomb only to climb back down just as quickly when the nurse on duty chided me for wearing my pants! Gee, I didn’t realize :D. And then my nightmare began. Internal examinations, preparations for labor... and all the other gory-sounding things (they are not really that gory I guess). How I hated the internal examination procedure – I used to literally start shivering and go all tight from head to toe the minute I spotted the nurse/doc approaching me with glove-clad hands! Anyway...

After all the initial checks and the final conclusion from the head nurse on duty that “it still hasn’t opened up enough down there”, they decided to invite me inside the labor ward. Wow, that’s a privilege – for a woman who was nowhere near labor :) So there I was, smiling bravely looking forward to the next steps... I followed the nurse inside the labor room and dummmmmmmm! I stopped dead. WHAT WAS THAT? SOMEBODY IS BLEDDING ALL OVER THE TABLE INSIDE... Mind you, I am not afraid of blood neither am I afraid of seeing the delicate things in life like a baby coming out. In fact, I would quiet like to witness this amazing thing. But what about the other lady on the table? Perhaps she would mind a stranger gawking at her... ahem! With an irritated expression, the nurse turned back and realized I was not following her anymore! With a tch, tch, she led me to another entrance where this time fortunately there was no delivery happening at the doorstep!

Bring it on guys. I can handle injections, I can handle trips, I can handle swallowing medicines (not big ones though please, I puke at the sight of them)... bring it on I say. Bring it on they did. Oh boy, did they bring it on. First, they hooked me up to saline water... alright that was just a prick on my wrist. Then the stupid assistant nurse got the vein wrong and had to find the right one. Ok, I can tolerate that for the sake of her education. No problem. Now, did you find the right one? Ouch... What the heck, that’s not my wristttttttt! Fortunately, my kind doc walked in just at that moment and rescued me from anymore unnecessary piercings! “Time for some shots – but don’t worry ma, we will give it through the saline water. But make sure you monitor the baby’s movements and pain level every second”. Ok, I can do that. Alls well that ends well or so I thought. After some four hours of enduring the slower than the snail pace of saline trips, I decided its not going to work. Whatever medicine they used to start the labor pain/contractions is not working. I still did not get a single contraction! The doc came in, did the dreaded thing again and decided to move me to the normal ward. Off I went, shame-faced this time. Maybe, they can try once more? Alright just once more, one more shot... a little more powerful medicine this time. Back to the labor ward, back on the table, back on the saline trips. This time, I did get few contractions. Ya, there, right there I can feel it... It is pain at last! Eureka! Wow, god, I love you! You decided to give me the pain after all... hey wait... it seemed to be going away. Come on, don’t desert me, my pain... Come on... :( It did not listen. I lay there in the labor ward, saline dripping, hoping for the pain with all my heart...

Meanwhile, there was this lady on the next table who was going into full labor. I had such fun watching the nurses running around, the doc commanding for this and that... and the lady shouting weird stuff :) The best moment was at the end – when the baby was almost out (I was watching from the sideways and the curtains were covering her table partially so unfortunately I could not see the miracle of birth but I did hear it!) – and the mom screamed “I don’t want the baby, pls take it away, I can't bear the pain” and the doc snapped, “this is 10 months too late, you should have thought of this on the “D” night” hahaha! That was fun. The surrounding nurses quickly whisked away the new born, and all I could see from my horizontal postion on my table were just some hands and white cloths! I was so jealous of that lady. Why cant I get the same pain??? So unfair....

to be continued...

Edited to add: Continued here

Friday, June 6, 2008

Click, The Photo Event and Helping Bri

CLICK is a monthly theme-based food photography contest hosted by Jugalbandi. Each month, entries will be invited based on a culinary ingredient or concept.

This month’s theme is: YELLOW for Bri. Yellow is the colour of hope. Through the work of the LiveStrong Foundation, it has also come to signify the fight against cancer. Bri is Briana Brownlow @ Figs With Bri. Bri was diagnosed with breast cancer two and half years ago. A mastectomy, chemotherapy and two years of relatively good health later, the cancer is back.

The team organising the JUNE edition of CLICK at Jugalbandi has also organised a fundraiser to help Bri and her family meet her out-of-pocket medical costs for ONE YEAR.

The Click entries can be viewed here. The deadline for entries is June 30, 2008. The fundraiser will extend until July 15, 2008.

You can support this campaign by donating to the fundraiser, by participating in CLICK: the photo event, and by publicising this campaign.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

For old times sake

---Quote---
Why do i keep going back?
I do feel reluctant to let go of the six-odd years of efforts and identity. Maybe I have been hasty. But I do not regret the decision. At the same time, there are a few out there who still seem to be passing through these pages on their way to Mount Everest. For those, maybe a small clue will help. If they are persistent that is. And it goes without saying they need to have a few working neurons and glials.

Do leave me a comment when you chance upon the new me next time. So that I can realize am not so kewl.
---unquote---

And I am talking about this. Making it extra apparent for best friends who become stupid overnight.
Melange-Wisdom of uncertainty

Of old age…

Hmm, where do I start? Should I begin with the mild ache and stiffness of my knees that I experience almost every day these days? Or maybe I should talk about those svelte lean girls with their high ponies getting the better of the attention all the time? Or perhaps the longing thought for a strenuous trek in the Himalayas that is always followed by a reluctant realization that maybe that won’t be possible at all in a few year’s time? Old age is approaching and it seems to be in the fifth gear. Scary. Very scary.

What happened to those days of riding like a mad woman on a motorcycle by the Marina beach? I remember the various friends who were gifted to sit behind me plead with me at various instances “Will you please slow down… We don’t want to get killed now, do we?” and a confident me replying “Come on di, we have a long way to go and trust me, nobody knows riding or this scooter more than me”. The carefree times of youth when we thought nothing can get us down. The high of risking it, which can come only with utter confidence that nothing is going to happen to you. Ya, maybe a mosquito might bite you but nothing worse than that. Come on.

But now, a slow realization is dawning on me. Having witnessed painful incidents, both as a stranger in the road as well as a best friend, I know how fickle the life as we know it is. It can change in a moment’s notice and how. From a secure cherished kid, life can sometimes cruelly make you an orphan overnight. I’ve seen one of my friends go through this and I must admit that it left its mark on me as well. I can still recall uncle lying in the easy chair with a cup of coffee in his hand, inviting me inside his house, “va, va, ava ippo vanduduva, she will come any minute now”.

And as days fly back, this only seems to be getting more and more reiterated. Take, for example, the other day….. when hubby and I was going to the office as usual. Oh, what that’s crowd, enquired the ever-curious me. We even parked our vehicle at a distance and got down to investigate further. What a gory sight. A young fella, mind you he was not a single bit drunk. And neither was he a speed-crazy college-goer. But it was over, his life. In a moment of a wrong decision.

At home, I can see the MIL becoming more tired every day. The lady who used to wake up at 5 in the morning and keep going till 11 in the night with not a single break, seems to now prefer lying down all the time. Even my mom. And my pop. They are growing older and older before my eyes and I can see they are losing it.

My own body….. the invincible one that I thought it to be. Aches and stiffness. Definitely signs of old age. Scary. Very scary.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Indian Mommies

Yet again, I discover a whole new world of amazing blogs out there. This time, they are mommy blogs. And I have fallen hopelessly in love. With them and my new role as a mommy. Here I come...

The first thing to do ofcourse is to re-design my blog to suit my new status. So bear with my little experiments, widgets, and all the Web2.0 compliance attempts (if you can call it that!!).

New beginnings

Sometime back, this blog had a different name, different look and a lot many different stuff. But after a particularly sensitive post and its consequences, I decided to move to a slightly more anonymous identity. I do not want people to call me up after reading my posts and enquire "oh poor thing, are you really lonely? what happened? did he... blah blah blah". However well-intended they are.

I am a very private person emotionally and I see this blog as a place where I can express myself freely without the usual need for appearances, etiquette, and all that crap. And when a friend called up after reading this post, I really freaked out! I decided then and there that my blog needs to go underground and disappear from the vision of friends, family and acquaintances. Unless ofcourse I end up asking my hubby or best friend to visit my blog after composing a post I am proud of!

So, here's to new beginnings! A drop of wisdom is born and I hope it gives me more freedom..... to rant, rave and reel :)

Monday, June 2, 2008

Statue!

Remember the game of Statue that we used to play while we were kids? When you are supposed to stand still without even batting your eyes...When desperately try not to move and fervently pray you don’t get a sneeze or a scratch? This is Statue that I am playing with myself – am holding still without batting my eyes – and while at that, am taking a look at my life...

  • It feels exhilarating to start all over again. And its seems to be happening at the right time in my life
  • I am almost jobless at work and yet content for the time being
  • And life at the personal front has just settled down - my baby is going to turn one any day now and I have resigned myself to the way of life i have chosen
  • Leaving the baby at home and going to work almost kills me, especially when I see her trying to wave me tata every morning with tears in the corner of her eyes
  • I have become a mom and it feels like I have won the world. I want to spend more time with my baby but the pressures of life makes me keep moving without stopping for a even a thinking minute lest I realize something and take decisions that are not conducive to the situation am in
  • After all, what would I do if I quit work and sit at home?
  • Yes, there is baby, but what about me? What about the nice big house I want with the beautiful garden of my dreams? What about the car? What about the amazing life I plan to give my daughter?
  • Nah, quitting work is not an option. Not anymore. Never was.
  • But will baby grow up learning the right things? What about my role as a mom?
  • Friends….. a word that I don’t utter these days. All my friends are back in Chennai and with my decision to move in the name of studies, career and marriage, perhaps I have forever foregone those wonderful souls that were around whenever I wanted them to be.
  • Husband – ya, I am getting there. Nagging wife, loving wife, 2 year wife, numerous google searches, vetti time spent on ivillage reading all those self-help, how-to articles! Long way to go!
  • Family – And by family hear I mean my amma, appa and my akka. And of course my niece and nephew. They are the real family to me. And how I miss them. Time is flying by so fast and before I realized it, my sister’s baby has grown up to a big girl. The baby that I held in my arms straight out of her mother’s womb (alright little exaggerated there!). Will I ever get those days back?
  • I wish…. I wish so many things that I do not have the courage to utter out loud. I wish so many things…
  • So many things……
  • And I'm writing my blog in a bulleted list!!!!!!!!!!!