Thursday, August 30, 2007

Those folios of transition...

The memories and happenings in life are like the sand in a beach. Its infinite. It comes and goes with the waves. Sometimes some linger on, changing hands, changing forms. A handful is all what my little hands could collect…and I present a day from my album of vision for a nostalgic remembrance.

Gazing through the misty morning's impressions of rain, reminiscing the days of yore, my shoes kissed the cemented platforms of Vadakara railway station. A Beedi (hand rolled cigarette) stub lay quarter burned and doused by yesterday's rain. Some traveler would have thrown it in his haste to board. Memories reinvented or did the Beedi rekindle it? Symbolization of a mass movement of the communist prowess of the early 1960's. AKG holding forte for the enactment of a national law for the protection of cigar and beedi workers in 1966, making Kerala Dinesh Beedi(KDB) the fourth largest beedi firm in India today.

Graying memory searched for the hot brewing cup of tea. The artistic ease with which the 60 year old Kanarettan, used to pour it back and forth from the mug to my glass. Never a drop spilled. "Perfect!!!" I used to compliment him in English. My eyes searched the locale, for no sign existed of a tea stall. On the steps of the nearby shop was squatting an octogenarian. His droopy face obstructing my question to come forth. The puff of smoke rose intermittently above his baldness. His gaze now questioned my stand. His answer was cold. Kanarettan is no more.

My gaze wandered in the loneliness around him. My ears echoed the thumping sound of his tea-glass on the wooden table. It's only after that I used to sip the brownish hot liquid. The morning gossip of how the government should be run between the sipping mouthfuls of tea and more were vacuous.

I thanked the old man, who had already opened his packet of Beedi for a better puff. The lighter was a coir rope hanging near, its tip burning slowly to a certain death. He rose with the definite difficulty of senile decay, evident from the dragging gait of imperfection. I dare didn't advice. Every individual needs a reason to die. Some find on their own, someone else is gifted. Deep inside a corner of my pocket lay the 2 rupee coin, worthless today for the tea will never taste the same again.

Only the STD counters had opened shop. The red and yellow ISD on the dangling boards pronounced the reach of the Malayali 'conglomerate' to every corner of the globe. The engines of the private buses were already raring for a speed trial. Empty morning = A comfortable seat. In B & W script - Ladies only. Feminism ruling the roost. But they know not that gender inequalities are mocking convincingly at me. Will we change? Isn't it time for another revolution!!! Who cares? Questions knocked my mind. The cold air was dancing duets with my hair. I get down at the bus shelter. It reads - In memory of the Koothuparamba martyrs. Carved in cement are the letters I yearn to read. DYFI – Democratic youth federation of India. The youth organization of Communist Party Of India (Marxist) found in 1980. A reminder of the long and chequered history of student activism and struggle in Kerala. Comrades, I salute you. The world survives on martyrs. "Jesus Christ being an authentic communist, anti-imperialist, enemy of the oligarchy" -Quoting Hugo Chavez. The first martyr – quotes my thoughts.

My countryside. Not a speck of tar. Red soil. Enough of rain to seep. My bladder urges to take the liberty of open air urination. Gals please excuse. Don't be jealous of my freedom. It's a boyzone. The dew-wet grass smokes as the freshness of warm drops bathe the leaves. Alarm to wake up for a new dawn. But the touch-me-nots shy away in silence. Zippers in. Home welcomes me, fern filled and slippery. Dry leaves spread lavishly as a cushion for the rain. Does the house face the ignominy of being forgotten? Our urban lives are taking the toll. Yet my Malayali soul yearns for another independent villa. I left for my aunt's house. Nostalgia followed me here like a faithful dog. Let me brush. Colgate toothpaste. The stand-up tube remains synonymous with the early cock-crows of yesteryears, of the days as a kid and more. I used to wonder. Why are all the thrown away tubes in two pieces? Grandma put the brush inside a half section and an elegant twist. The whole paste kissed the bristles and came out white. Now I realize the value for money. Uncle complaints, "The plastic tubes of today are not fully filled. Air reduces the weight." I leave no room for debate. The easiest way being silent.

Brushing finished.... I search my bag frantically for the tongue cleaner made of steel. It's missing as usual. Forgotten. Back to nature. The midrib of a specific part of the coconut palm did the magic again. How skillfully did my uncle split it making a perfect use-&-throw double-tongue cleaner!!! Mythology too had the analogy in my maddening world of ideas. Equated my uncle to Bhima and the midrib to Jarasandha. Split open to an assured death.

Breakfast is ready. Appam and stew. Mind meanders. Those breezy evenings used to bring a cycle bell ringing. Chandran - The toddy-taper. Cuter, childish & fair like the toddy. He hands over a glass of toddy. I sip a little out of curiosity. Tasting sweet!!! So now I too can proclaim after the vacation- "I too have boozed". An insurmountable achievement among the 4 th standard guys. But what was toddy really for? It acts as natural yeast added for the fluffiness in the delicacy called Appam in Kerala. What was it this time? My aunty too has gone Yeast, when everyone else is heading west. No more cycle bells. Chandran has left for the hidden fortune in gulf. The dream abode of Malayalis. He said he never found a treasure atop the coconut palm.

Knock on the door at 9am. A man draped in a brilliantly orange hue below his waist. Tied so stylishly around, the muscular legs tend to shiver in might. The huge moustache adding glamour to the chocolate-brown skin he is gifted. The sharpest of his knifes kissed his buttocks, yet a smile adorned his face. That's Kumarettan. The coconut-climber. The ease of his task leaves me gaping as always. How do his legs grip the palm with a single piece of coir? Magnificent sight he must be having at the top. I go green. I dream. I forget it only when my tongue is pricked with the fizz of a tender coconut. The pyramidal top of the cut coconut. Craft indeed. He leaves taking his due & two coconuts. I tried climbing once. The failure was in getting down. Beaten black and blue - end to an ode. Now no more Kumarettan comes. Coconuts fall at the mercy of God. Some lucky passer by collects it. Its all coke and Maaza to quench my thirst.

My thoughts wandered like the lovely clouds. Those days when as a kid, I dreamt of a moustache. The ladybirds' inquisitiveness to know who the city-kid tucked in pants and belt is!!! Reflected clear from the questioning eyes. My eyes felt shy and proud together, all bottled a kid head. I was alien to the world of colloquies in Badagara. Now I had a handicap to select an answer about my identity. Should it be in my dad's name or the house name? My heart pumped 'lubb-dubb' every second. Sweat streaked my little forehead. The little hairs as young as my hands too get drenched cold. Finally I juggle my response and walk off by the canal side. Escaped. Now none asks. None cares. Effects of globalization?? I shrug it off as another odd joke.

Yet summer did have inviting glances at me. The small trucks that roared in the silence of the mornings. Empty bellied ones returning with truck loads of mangoes. It grumbled less in the evenings or did I feel so? Now one solitary tree remains. As souls departed from the indoors to a heavenly abode, the huge mangifera trees were taken for the pyre. May the souls rest in peace. This time I noticed the smaller saps have grown handsome & broader. For me and my loves ones. An inner voice whispered. Life is like that. A cycle of life and death. Merciless at times.

Evenings were fertile. Pazhampori (banana-fry) & kalathappam (type of cake) spread on the table. All home made by grandma. And today lures my buds with the bakery spread. They know not that it's for the small village leisure's and pleasures of yesteryears that I turned to wander-lust.
Those days of voltage drop by twilight taught me the skeleton of a bulb. The filaments in different hues, shapes and figures. A beauty so beautiful. Now none admires a bulb, for tubes & CFL's have replaced the days of low voltage. My thoughts drift again. The suicidal flies that took wing around the bulb and were engulfed by the lit lantern. How will they have a reason to die now? Senile decay even for those who had a charming death in my vision. Longer life. That's the positive outlook. The pitter patter has lost the freedom to cascade, yet the rains remain a vociferous spectator. Tiles and thatches finding roof as a possession of the deprived. The night gossips have ceased to exist. Television has taken the waterfalls to a trickle. Everyone glued like the Fevicol ad. Females married off. Older people called back to the pavilion. Some sudden deaths too… and the rest into a cocoon of their own. We have grown in size of our selfishness. The hearts have shrunk. Lives have changed. Time has its mutants. Transition.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

15 minutes to 15 hours - A Deccan Odyssey

Another evening. My heart yearned to gift the parker I forgot. But god scripted it anew, altering the 15 minute session to an unending 15 hour sojourn in the hospital stairs. Every moment with her dissolved itself to a momentous memoir treasured than a souvenir bestowed. At times my heart leapt for her sheer quality. At times for her simplicity - tribute to a dignified lady. A Magnanimous individual, mature beyond the tender age of adulthood. As the discussion progressed, my ideas got enlightened with her ideals, those that have been paved with intelligence and sincerity beautifying the sidetracks. A simple person for the mighty image she had cultivated inside her niche. Humble to her extent, for stood opposite her a delineated, vain and proud individual basking in egoistic glory.
Time flew. Lively discussions taking berth. Boastful sessions exchanging glances. Nostalgic exchanges bartered for richness. Unexplored realms of reflection, mirroring the bounties. A dull mobile battery as the lone testimonial. The world, people, their feelings in the nutshell of our conversation.
Me and Reni, mute spectators to an exciting drama. The conflict of emotions as a theme. Let me raise the curtains of the theater. Have a glimpse.
A call from the magical world of nowhere. Her friend (seena's) suicide trial & Our suicide trail. Sleeping pills – They echoed. ‘Rush to the Apollo”. The bumpy auto ride. The towering safari suit. The ambulance sirens. The gusty speed.
August 7th 2007, was rewinding for me. The morning had displayed everything including the Apollo hospital in front, an ambulance siren on the road, except that I was an onlooker then. Again Deja-vu. My diary repeated.
Papers to be signed. The ink grinned – ‘I take responsibility”. Was it a grimace? Hope not. The wait, pause and murmurs added to the unfolding drama. In a flash the neon red lights signaled - “Govt General Hospital”. Doctors questioned with an unlikely curiosity unseen in the eyes of the policemen. The question lingered - “What has she popped in and in what quantity?” My mind interrogated my intellect. Is it you who supplied it to her? My head did reel. Absurd question – it whispered. “Ask
seena. She can talk.” My tongue wagged an authoritative arrogance. But the intellect googled her bag for a foil. An empty strip like the five fingers popped out & coyly claimed – “I went in her tummy to let her sleep permanently”. Sleeping pills- the doc heaved a sigh of relief. Attempter or abettor, whoever, still owes me.
Ungrateful pals with excuses to own. A call to
seena’s mom. Another cold remark evoked. A jeer indeed. seena’s mom on wrong side? Not at all. Why should she care the one who escaped from the clutches of an ailing society!!!
Can I ever forget the sincere but tired gait of Reni on the hospital verandah juggling three test-tubes of
seena’s blood, urine and gastric juices in both her hands. A silent prayer remained in me – ‘God, do take care of this noble lady in any adversity’. As the adage goes – Those who have none had God with them. Reni was destined a role – of the guardian angels’. All the worlds a stage and all the men and women mere actors… I remembered Shakespeare for once. A silent tear leapt out to kiss my cheek. Thanks for an unforgettable night for I could know in intensity, the devotion in her friendship.
Eons since I have woken a whole night, but this was classic. No tardiness to challenge the clock. Her eyes wide open, once droopy. There I knew that the conversation lacked punch. “Let’s have a stroll” Reni suggested. Down the vacant verandas amidst the humming mosquitoes. Once disturbed by the shrill cry of a lady who lost a valuable. A death knell at night. One soul we say. One life she laments. Only the walls to comfort her beats. Let her cry. Let the emotions flow out to the empty air to taste.
Visits of the policemen with the hourglass regularity never ceased. Calls of ‘
seena’ came like a bolt from the blue. Often a peeving disturbance for our conversation. Empty advices. Lewd looks. Glassy talks.
One of them quipped – ‘people kill & we lose sleep’. Poor guys! I genuinely felt sorry.
Now my tummy was disturbing. Dinner please. We Agreed!! The midnight saunter & the pleasure to have a late dinner welcomed by the canine barks and the lust clad eyes of men alike. She didn’t notice. I did. I love the neighbours roving eyes jealous of a creatively crafted possession. The envy was fuelled as food got served. My tummy felt full by the crumb she left in the platter.
Back to the conflicting house of emotions. A haunted board hung freely in green. Title: Poison Emergency Clinic. Loved ones still melancholic for the loved ones who tried taking his life. Is it worth a strand of sympathy? No!!! Suggested my empathy. Then why am I here. Questioned my sympathy? It’s for Reni -My wits resonated. End of an argument. I laughed callously at the loss of life, for the unknown didn’t require these ailing souls now. Suicide is self will, though it demands a lot of willpower. But
seena was trying to display her depth of love. Yet doesn’t she know that Love is blind. It can’t see.
Now we were back in track. Reni’s stories gained momentum and so did my curiosity. My eyes often set on her wide open round eyes, sometimes reddish cheeks, a sweet nose, rounded forehead & 2 sprouting pimples on her right chin, missing out on the ears in total as I listened in rapt attention her side of affairs. Cold stares for the old lousy lovers. Of those pastels that lent her the present hue. Her reminiscence of childhood. Her longing to get time reversed. Poetry in prose!!! Full of expression. Badagara slang pepping the tête-à-tête.
But she has to learn a lot. To be decisive. To speak in the negative. Often a weakness of a Badagaraite, who gets rooted in the name of commitment.My advices did follow suit, as it never cost me a penny.
The sheer power of storytelling gained prowess. Only thirst attacked us. I had my tongue begging for a drop. Like nomads we set in search of water. An engineer, a journalist and a cloth bag in blue. Into the Railway station minus the platform tickets. A fear lurked inside for an offence getting noticed. Luck favoured the seller. “Paani Thanda Nahi”(water isn’t cold) His broken Hindi politely muttered. So, did the tall Tamilian take me for a Northie? Anyways he earned Rs 10 for a thirsty soul is quenched by anything in the name of water. Thou we cheated the Govt to save a worthless Rs 6. Inviting glances from the rickshaw-wallas for they took us for the unknown fish ready to catch the waiting bait, only to be indolently neglected.
She hadn’t winked a bit till now. Her brows I saw were eager to hug and slip into the world of lost dreams. But our ordeal was far from over. Tender coconut was the next mission. An old lady, plugged with her hearing aids, (don’t please mistake it for the Bluetooth). Her broken teeth. The gaping holes. The wrinkled skin. An impression of the late 60’s. What a beautiful smile she furnished for free when Reni paid her handsomely. Independent old lady, I salute you. The coconut break-FAST, brought to an end the poisonous travelogue.
seena supped it greedily. She had tears, not for us but for her fate and her guy.
Liberty at last. Blue sky, green buses, yellow rickshaws, multihued people dappled in the choicest of post modern dyes. We could discover colors. A new gained freedom. Still I felt a little gloomy. My selfish ego had been echoing the night be endless. Praying for the sun sleep endlessly. But nature has its own work to be perfected. Time never waits.
The conversations seemed endless like my favorite quote – ‘life is short, enjoy every moment of it.’
Reni stands a towering testimonial of her charm unsurpassed. Her quality imbibed in the pages of serenity. Her stamp of independence framed in the corners of the chronicles. Every page I flipped had the aroma of coincidences, treading along the sidewalks of the unknown horizons. Now we met to realize it. Rebirths are my hope for the souls to unite
Am glad to have stacked yet another present. A slice of time from the life she lived. Those very few ever gifted. Others know not that gifts are priceless, for we forget the sweets they bring, once the taste fails to linger in the buds. Memories remain, and with it the bitterness and sweetness alike, etched in the mysteries of tomorrows. A great time together. A greater experience unveiled. An individual understood!!! Time and fate remains loyal as ever to the supreme power unknown.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

........................The Sweet Scent Of News..........................
Fag end of teenage. Lazy college days. Freedom and exuberance in full swing. Waking up late, a ritual. Bunking morning classes, a hobby. Auto-switch off on alarms. No bed coffees. Plummeting results. Sagging spirits. But something stimulated me more than the aroma of a bed-coffee. A fresh smell that replaces the lost nights immortalizing HOPE - the intoxicating scent of newsprint.

It’s my roommate who struck on the novel idea - ‘Newspaper near the nose’ so that I would wake up in a jiffy to sup on the scoops.As time progressed, I could identify the scents of different newspapers. More than that it dawned upon me the associated flavors and it’s spicy invigorations. A special odour for the advertisers, another for their clients and yet another for the readers.

Is it the papyrus or the ink that lends the aroma? The real aroma is the newspaper professional that puts in his/her creative efforts to gift something new every morning. Change and innovation as swords and deadlines as the Armour nurtures the daily competition. Good Nights make their day or say good days make their night.

The impression that newsprint heads for the shelf by noon is debatable. It’s a phoenix, essentially experiencing new forms of life. In school, newspaper clippings enhanced my assignments while in college it helped win the collage contest. Even now when the plastic bags turn a menace, heads turn towards the humble newsprint. And for my friend it’s an umbrella in a drizzle or her sunshade when hot. Yet again my fan when power plays spoilsport.

I lament not wearing a journalist’s attire. Forgot to get one in the rush to engineer a society’s need. Like a daily that infuses a fragrance of hope, I too hope to reprint the forgotten annals of nostalgia. Once again being a maverick journalist who had once published four-page newsletters. Yet ever morn I remember the nocturnal sacrifices by a bunch lauded and denigrated alike. Hats off to the press.