Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Habitats to Homes...

Appu looked through his plastic aquarium. Finger sized fish swam in the transparent waters. Silver strips glistened at every swift manoeuvre.

Continuous days of June rains. Earth quenched her thirst. Then the streams took birth. Muddy brown water over-spilled and meandered, clearing paths for its own progress. Now was the turn of nature’s spring to take charge. Pellucid and with them came uninvited guests of a different genre. It was Appu’s favourite pastime to venture into those unchartered waters. Sometimes with Amma’s consent and mostly by evading her constant gaze.

Today again he ran down the cemented steps, forgetting in the hurry, his habit of counting the number of steps. Before mom came searching, the little fisherman had to populate his marine museum with five more of the little fish or fishes. He decided to try all mathematics while going back, two steps at a time, or to try even three by stretching his little legs to the maximum. His tiny body stooped enough to concentrate, lest his catch went missing. Magic stroke of luck and his heart leapt. There in the corner of the stream swam in attentive assembly a shoal of little fish, a young breed like him. Playfully some hid behind the submerged and dancing blades of grass; some turned around and the rest swam behind. Almost motionless he rested the polythene bag of water on the wall of wet earth. Appu had mastered arresting the school of fish. Every step as casual, but more careful, his breath unprepared to disturb the air, even the ripples found it difficult to get stirred. Silence of death prevailed, a ghost he inspired. The closer his steps, the more he forgot his surroundings. It was drizzling slightly. The little legs in one flash posed a footballer about to take a free-kick.

“ Apppuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu…”- The shrill angry call swept him off his feet. Appu slipped and fell. The cutie buttocks hiding in the small trousers were wet. A visibly frightened Appu looked behind.

“ Who told you to come out in the rain?” – Divyechi stood stern in a questioning pose. Sky-blue skirt and white blouse as uniform, School bag in one shoulder, holding an open umbrella she came closer and pinched his ear lobes. Appu’s face twitched as if his tongue tasted something vinegary.

“ Hahahaha…” he heard the giggle and looked atop the mud walls. At the edge, stood Chakkara, his naughty neighbour, with a small umbrella in her shoulders, head posed to a side and clapping her hands in joy. The girl who always poked her nose in the unwelcome had shed water once again to all his plans. His archrival, she liked him getting punished. Appu read what traversed in between. Divyechi while returning from her convent was directed by Chakkara to his mischief.

He bore the ignominy since the only chances of escaping Amma’s daily reward was to plead Divyechi.

“ Get all the rain in your head and catch a cold…” – Divyechi murmured on and on while drying a naked Appu.

“ Echi (sister), don’t tell Amma, please” – He whispered reluctantly.

“ Let me see” – She was too demanding. Appu’s lips went in a half crescent grimace behind her.

“ Please Echi, I won’t go out in rain again, promise” – Promise was added to every sentence, a newfound term after last academic year’s progress.

“ In that case, OK” – Echi agreed.

Wrapped in the pink towel, he marched ahead.

“ Why did u take bath now?” – Amma came from nowhere and questioned.

Before Appu opened his box of lies, Divyechi interfered “ He slipped in the courtyard”

What a sign of relief he had. A naughty smile decorated him. One eye briefly closed and opened, he acknowledged the lie, another of the impish learning from the third standard. Divyechi smiled at Appu’s genuine innocence.

He planned to avenge the treatment and decided to pay Chakkara in full. He thought, his blood still boiling. I’ll dig a trench, make her run the way and she will fall. Appu laughed at the smartness of his ideas. Clever boy!!! He patted himself with the comment Lathika teacher used to confer for his marks in Maths.

Rain steered clear and Appu reinvented the plans to fish hunt.

Stepping into the stream like a cat, his vigilant eyes were ready to battle any adversity. In a split second he splashed a sheet of silvery water. Along with it lay on the side a handful of little fish. Struggling to adjust to the new conditions, they fought for breath. Appu ran and carefully palmed one by one and dropped in the mobile aquarium. Though within a freedom curtailed boundary, lucky enough to get their breath back, they swam open eyed and confused. Appu imagined them as searching their parents and friends; still his selfish heart didn’t long to let them free. He loved their fins and the manner they took breath in and out. There were nights when he woke to see how his little fish slept, but they never did. Appu concluded this for their melancholy minus their loved ones.

When the total population reached ten, the fish found it difficult to swim in the packed contours and fortunately Appu understood it. Summer vacations came to an eventful end by June end. Set to join fourth standard in yet another big city, his heart longed not to lose his precious collect. The impossibility of Achan (Dad) allowing fish in the suitcase looming large, Appu was upset. Tears brimmed the contours of those black lashes.

“ Appu, why are you crying?” A soft tone rang like the cold breeze of the sultry summer afternoon. Chakkara came closer and sat beside him.

Hearing his woe she smiled and said – “ Don’t you worry Appu, leave them in our well, they will have more space to swim and every year when you are here you can see how big they have grown.”

“ Ohhh, wow!!” exclamations upon exclamations studded the fluffiness that Appu felt deep inside. His wide-open eyes, for the first time looked at Chakkara in admiration. Days of pent up anger melted at the breakthrough idea.

Unable to contain the excitement he ran, took the self-designed aquarium, looked through as he always used to, but now for the final time and poured the contents into the tumbler. He requested Divyechi to lower the tumbler with his fish friends into the well. Appu and Chakkara leaned hard to see the tumbler hitting the water softly. Into their new home, a freer place the tiny fish could grow better, start life afresh; rear a school of fish and ultimately a big population. Appu’s mind crossed the boundary of imaginations. He foresaw the subsequent trips, where the fish grew as big as what ‘Salim mappila’ got them everyday to fry, but he was firm never to allow his fish into the frying pan. They would be his friends, thanking his Chakkara for the new life. He couldn’t find the tiny silver streaks anymore; still he felt their happiness knocking at his heart.

The fishes have grown, so has Appu, and a happily married Chakkara. Her kids play outside the silver painted gate, with permission, and without any steps to count. The tiny fishes swim ready to flow to the paddy fields. The kids have but a novel idea. Appu Maman’s white banyan cloth as a sieve as well as to see the fish clear, ‘Kunju’ held one side of the cloth and ‘Thenu’ the other. Both moved in the shallow waters like a four-legged monster.

“ Lift it” – Kunju shouted and Thenu did. Five tiny fishes struggled and Appu reclined in the armchair remembering the bygone days. 17 years shifted like a single shuffle of cards. His fishes big and dark enough haven’t lost the silver streak. Visible to the naked eye, they shy away to their own secret crevices, cursing him or blessing Chakkara, he never can contemplate.

“ Appu-mamma…, how tiny and beautiful they look, isn’t?”

“ Beautiful catch!!!” - He nodded along in appreciation, “ who caught it?”

Kunju took the credits and Appu saw his past reflecting through the transparencies. Silver strips glistened at every swift manoeuvre….

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


“ Mom, get me the watch from my drawer”

“ Which one do you want? The one with a leather strap or the steel!!! ”

“ Anyone ”

Busy, yet ornately strapping the black one around my wrist, memories ran faster than the seconds needle.

Years back where a watch reflected flamboyance. A tender age that yearned to be old. The 10 year old graduated from primary classes. Another vacation chugged him to the tranquil native village. Grandma longed to cuddle him in her lap. He who loved freedom always blushed in the attention. He continued playing, plundering runs at will from a deflated bowling. His 6-year-old brother waited for a lapse in concentration.

“ Chettan (brother), am tired bowling, please give me the bat”

“ Eda, two more over’s, maximum 5 more minutes”.

He dashed inside and I ran behind. Eyes groped in the dark and adjusted slowly. His little hands pointed and decided on the bigger needle first. It stood pointing 6.

“ Ha ha, Till 12:30 only ” – Tinku quipped after looking sharply at the needles of the grandfather clock. He had perfected the mathematics of five. The bigger needle at 1, 2, or 3, anywhere till 11 multiplied by 5 presented him the perfect time.

First standard taught him the simplicities of the hours, minutes and seconds in a clock, thought both of us weren’t aware of the importance of time. The pendulum oscillated without rest.

Grandma watched the proceedings from the portico and smiled

“ Enough of your cricket. Now take bath and come for lunch”

“ Ammammey(grandma) pleaaaase” Tinku pleaded with a lengthy overtone.

“ After lunch, I will give you a surprise ”

Tinku agreed with a smile.

Evening woke early.

“ Dress up kids, don’t we have to go out”. Grandma said kissing Tinku’s small nose.

His eyes slipped to sleep and the cute body shrinked itself into an embryo shape.


Full sleeves and tucked shirts in the knee length trousers clothed us to a gentlemanly demeanor.

“ Where are we going?” I enquired the third time.

“ Thalassery town” - Ajitechi answered.

She looked beautiful in her Aqua blue sari and a matching blouse. The bangles shied when the fingers adjusted her earrings that swung with those black stones embroidered by a thin strip of gold. Some strands of mischievous long hair kissed those earrings before someone noticed the naughty act.

Tinku jumped to her waiting hands.

My mind pictured and discussed the falooda’s waiting in crystal glasses. The ‘rose and white’ mix, topped with vanilla flavoured ice cream was the food aficionado’s delight. The transparent small slippery balls that teased the teeth and danced around the liquid gave a smile. And the noodle like ingredient had heavens tasting on earth.

We walked on a different course altogether. No falooda’s?? Now what!!! We wondered.

The shop of shiny, leathery, silvery and golden watches hung on the glass sheet; most of them displaying 10 minutes past 10 were a treat.

“ Lallu, select the one u like”

I looked in awe; an inexplicable happiness swathed my skin, and in all kindness returned some Goosebumps of excitement.

Frames of me being the most important in the sixth class, and a crowd of boys and girls hovering around me to have a glimpse of the newfound fortune stimulated some corners of the heart.

“I too want the watch” – Tinku interfered.

“ When you are as big as your brother, there will be one for you”

Unrelenting he remained silent, cheeks red and puffed in anger, eyes brimming with tears. Ajitechi had the answer with a digital watch from the showcase. 06:47 PM, and the colon played hide and seek.

“ I liked this one ” – With a watch in hand I declared gleaming.

“ Take another one Lallu, it’s a ladies watch” – Ajitechi had her opinion.

“ NO”

“ Let him have his choice” –Ammamma stood by my side.

And thus I wore a silvery steel strap, with a name calligraphed in the smallest of print on the dial. Sst Shalini- it read from HMT.

Years rolled ahead. Watches upon watches, each costlier, beautiful than the preceding came to adorn my wrist, but none could give the feeling of being wealthy and important. The Sst still lies on my desk, ‘a souvenir’, wind it and it unwinds memories of Grandma, Ajitechi, Thalassery, their warmth, our childhood…Thus filling the turf with umpteen examples of simplicity, selfless acts of kindness, of unspoken deeds of love, reminding those nostalgic evenings which never will be back to fill the void that grandma left, again to make me feel important at least once again.

The pendulum oscillates, without rest, without complaints, at every crossing half hour, the silent tick-tock's chime loud, waking me out of my reveries, elucidating the new world ahead and the multitudes of opportunities it has in offer.

Thank you Grandma, for accustoming me to what time is, to my parents who taught me the importance of time, and to all who integrated in my life to make every passing second entertaining and life meaningful.

Thursday, March 06, 2008


I set her free from the dungeons of my heart.
I float with the melody of the winds.
I feel as light as a bun of cotton.
I sense victory in thoughts.
I defeated my fallacies.
I liberate My Self.
I set ME open.
I can inhale.

NB: Do see a Pyramid/Triangle and not an Underwear!!!!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


“Shree khodiyar American Indian sweet corn” – As queer a name, yet something aromatic, something specific too... Maybe the four-wheeler is hand in glove of an American Indian!!! ‘Four-wheeler’ a misnomer, lets call it a cart.

A teenager guarded them- shy, shabby and smiling. The corn lay calm on the coal bed. Basking in the warmth of the puffing pulsations, the faintest green sheath continued browning in the redness of coal. Flannels flew while the corn conversed the coal. Anger? “No, it’s our love” - They said. Well aware of their destiny... a few moments of passion.

The petro-max shed a convenient shade. Five of the already prepared corn cousins lay conspicuous in the lower compartment, sleepy, tired and weeping for their love life stood incomplete and a little jealous for the one taking pleasure from the fondling of those masculine wood splinters now.

“How much for one?” – Pop came my question.

“ How many do u want?” – Pat came his inquiring reply.

The bargain starts, ending on a positive note. I cornered my eyeballs to have a glimpse at the simmering intimacy.

“ Two of the hottest, fresh cones please.”

He stripped the papery green sheath, already darkened to spots of isolated black. In half nude husk, they did shy a little. Lemon takes its turn in a hemisphere, a slight squeeze and came the juice, sour and translucent. Dipped in the Reddish-orange mixture of salt and chilly, they exchange a deep kiss. Like a shy guy smeared with his girl’s lipstick, lemon goes licking the bare body of cone, up and down, top to bottom. The skirt forcibly lifted, my cone looked innocent in shame. Pretty they looked with the tiny kernels stacked like a hundred little teeth.

My hands took the offer and the lusty front teeth dug into it ferocious. An assembly line of cute yellow stood audacious, but in disturbed disarray. The taste buds excited at the new prospect, tongiliciously tempting, irresistibly mouth-watering, tantalizingly aromatic, and invitingly succulent. Sour, salty, hot and tasty, what more of a flavor could my buds long for on that wintry night on the beach where waves blend one upon the other in another saga of love.