27 May, 2012

Kyra and the Chennai Mamis

(Image Courtesy : Indiblogger.com)

A trip down South of India, to where else but the one and only Singara Chennai !!!  Oh God !!  I groaned when I saw the letter which bore the magnificent (so people think) crest of the agency that I work for.  OK – make that  “the agency which is fortunate enough to be able to avail of my esteemed vision and skills”.   The words “photo shoot in Chennai” leapt out at me as though they had a life of their own.   

In absolutely tandem with my thoughts,  Annie Lennox began to croon “Why ?  Oh Why ?” on the IPod Dock.  Very apt, I thought wryly.  Why indeed ??!!   I thought, in a rather dazed stupor as I tried to think of ways and means to get out of this sticky situation.  This was sticky – literally and figuratively.  Ever visited Chennai during the summer months ??  I bet the Chinese did not because if they had, they would have found a far better substitute to the Chinese Water Torture.  They would have discovered the Chennai Summer Torture !!

The little red light on the answering machine was blinking rather seductively as I walked in through the door.  What I was focused on, however, was the oppressing heat and humidity that the entire world seemed enveloped in.  To top that, the traffic in Mumbai had done nothing to help that feeling of oppressive smother that was beginning to take its hold on me and make its presence felt. 
About half an hour later, with the air con humming  and with me feeling a lot more human, I decided to just call in a pizza for dinner.  Whilst cooling off with an ice lemon tea as I waited for the pizza to be delivered, I decided to listen to the voice messages on the phone.  “Hi Babes !!!” floated the voice out of the telephone.  I blinked in disbelief as Kyra went on, her voice as light and breezy as a Matheran summer “Babes – I’m coming over to Mumbai next week and guess what ?” she crooned as only Kyra can “I have the whole week off”.  “Take that long overdue vacation, will ya and let’s go gallivanting around India” said Kyra, making everything sound so very easy and possible, like she always did.  Kyra – whom I’d met once during a photoshoot for Lakme products.  Kyra – the quintessential sunshine Diva who, even if she were modeling to promote coconuts,  had the ability to make the nut look like some exotic treasured fruit,  putting alphonso mangoes to shame. 

I was a mixture of feelings – disappointment at the fact that I could, in no way, take the next week off because of the blessed photo shoot in Chennai and excitement at the fact that Kyra was visiting after so long.  Kyra the Sun Fairy, we used to call her during our college days.  Kyra the cheerful – she was jovial, positive, optimistic and sunny.  Even on the darkest of rainy days, just Kyra’s presence could make one feel like one was basking in sunshine on one of the lovely beaches in Goa.

As I sunk my teeth rather guiltily, in to another slice of pizza, the idea began to take root in my mind.  Why not ask Kyra to accompany me on my photo shoot and maybe part of the shoot?  It would make life fun in Chennai.  To be honest, I was totally tickled pink at the idea of letting the lively, bubbly, vivacious Kyra loose on the mamis in Chennai.  That should be some combination, I thought to myself, not suppressing the giggle that had erupted – the little giggle that soon had me laughing hysterically at the very thought of a size six Kyra and the super-sized mamis of Chennai. 

When I called Kyra and asked her whether she would like to accompany me to Chennai, she had absolutely no qualms.  “Of course, babes! Why would I mind a paid holiday ?!” was all Kyra said “The idea is to spend time together and I don’t care whether we visit Chennai or the Arctic” she said, in that typical “Kyra Voice” – soft, sultry yet full of the little girl charm and innocence.  “A week in Chennai and the weekend under the sun in Tiruvananthapuram (Tri-van-duh-pram for Kyra) sounds fantastic” she said, her voice all alight with excitement.  A slow grin made its way across my face as I envisioned spending a week together with Lakme’s Sunshine Girl Kyra.

Now the mamis in Chennai, I knew from previous experiences, were a force to be reckoned with.  The first time I’d been to Chennai the indomitable Chennai mamis had quite literally dominated my senses – in the true sense of the term.  They could be heard, seen and smelt all around, at any given time of the day.  I remember watching groups and groups of mamis waddling along noisily, thanks to their flip flops, at the vegetable markets and in the markets at T.Nagar and Pondy Bazar.  

I had almost been blinded by the Chennai mamis – thanks to the amount of blings they flaunt openly and outrageously.  The traditional eight diamond “vaira thodu” glittering on their ears only to be matched by the traditional three stone “mookutthi” (nose ring) perched on one side of the nose – the right side.  Some of the mamis, traditional to the core, would have noses emanating sharp shards of light  thanks to the noserings on both nostrils – diamonds, of course !

I had been able to smell the Chennai Mamis all around – not in terms of body odour – but more so in terms of talcum powder.  That first trip to Chennai left me with a firm belief that Chennai Mamis must have been born holding a box of talcum powder in their hands.  They love talc.  Yo Lakme – you listening ??!!  Chennai, being really hot, people get tanned super quick.  A huge natural tanning salon, a hot cauldron meant to super tan skins. Chennai Mamis have a traditional remedy to counter tanning.  A remedy that has been handed down generation after generation – talcum powder !!  Before she leaves home, a Chennai mami slaps on a generous amount of talcum powder on her good self – which is to say – quite a bit – given the average size of a Chennai mami.  Now for the secret !!  She also tosses in a generous amount of talcum powder on her handkerchief and tucks the handkerchief rather primly and safely into her blouse.  Once the heat hits, the skin starts to slowly broil and tan, quite often resulting in a look that reminds one of an over roasted crisp.  The mamis in Chennai have a simple solution to this – they lather on more talcum powder from the handkerchief.  Every mami in Chennai lathers on heaps of talc in the hope that the talc refracts the sun rays upward, into space !!  Quite a sight they make too - leaving in their wake little white clouds as they walk away like apparitions from Cirque de Soleil !!  If left to their good selves, the Chennai mamis would lather talcum  powder all over the Arctic as a solution to global warming.   With the polar ice and glaciers melting at a dangerous pace, Chennai Mamis would say “talcum powder to the rescue”,  reflecting  sunlight back into space.

“These mamis could well do with some Lakme Sun Expert”, I said to Kyra who giggled her approval.  “We could introduce them to it” she said, still giggling.  “It would be much better than just talcum powder”, I said.  “Yeah”said Kyra “and since most mamis in Chennai are computer literate, we could ask them to log on to www.facebook.com/ilovelakme to get in touch with more mamis who are already benefiting from Lakme Sun Expert”, she said. “Would it not be fun to watch the Chennai Mamis reach into their blouses and whip out tube after tube of Lakme Sun Expert ??”  giggled Kyra. 

As I drifted off to sleep that night, I remembered watching sharp shards of light shimmering down at me.  When I looked up, all I could see was scores and scores of Chennai Mamis, their diamonds refracting light all over and in the midst of that crowd stood a smiling Kyra, arms outstretched, offering tubes after tubes of Lakme Sun Expert to the milling mamis.  The sun shone brightly above them, embracing them in its heat but the mamis cared no more.   Accompanied by Kyra, they lay on the pristine beach in Kovalam, their plus size bikini clad bodies stretched out on the sand.     “Bah !! Who needs talcum powder anymore maa ?” crooned the mamis.  “Talcum powder is wonly for the Eskimos in the Arctic fighting global warming!”

The mamis now had the Lakme Sun Expert Power and they had begun to revel in it.

This is my entry for the Lakme Diva Blogger Contest on Indiblogger.com.

25 May, 2012

Happy Ninth, Abhay :-))

Well, what can I say to you, my little man.  That phrase “little man” in itself, summarizes everything.  I’ve said this before, I’m saying it again and mom that I am, I will say this again in the future – “Where has time flown ?”   Nine years – has it really been nine years.  It seems like yesterday that I held you in my arms – all tiny and bundled up and here you are now – all of nine years old.  It seems like yesterday that you were taking your little wobbly baby steps and now I see you zipping around on your bike – crazily enough to make the world spin in front of my eyes, crazily enough to make me avert my eyes and not let my sights follow you because I can't bear to watch you go crazy with that bike of yours.  It scares me !!
The changes in you are abundant and as you change and evolve into being your own person, as you carve your own identity, your own personality, it is difficult for me not to take a peek back at your baby days.  What you were then and what you are now.  Gone are the baby blankets and the toy carsh (as you used to call them) and in their place I now find skateboards and  soccer balls.  Gone are the baby bootees and made their way in have hiking boots.  Gone are those baby books and those picture books and in their place I now find the Enid Blytons and the Roald Dahls.  Changes abound.  As I speak, I know this saga will continue - there will be firsts and there will be lasts and I, for one, look forward to both with an unmitigated sense of pleasure.
If someone had told me a few years ago that you would, one day, stand in front of the whole class and speak ex tempore on something that you were passionate about, I would probably have been pleased but not convinced.  You’ve changed that in me.  You’ve convinced me of your capacity, your capability and your tenacity when dealing with something that you believe in and are passionate about.  When you stood for those Student Council elections, I was absolutely amazed when your teacher told me that you had spoken at length in front of the whole class, totally ex tempore, without any notes on hand and she said she’d been completely blown away at the strength of your conviction, at the confidence and the ease with which you speak to a large group of people.  Hang on that quality for it was stand you in good stead as you grow.
The sense of fairness that you hold on to is a huge strength.  Fairness, as a quality, is seen steadily going downhill in the world of today.  But you have the faith to believe in fairness and you have the ability to stand by your principles – no matter what.  Not only do I admire that quality in you, I quite respect it too.  Small wonder then that among the first awards that you got at school this year was an award for being “principled”. 
I do love the way you present your written work too.  I enjoy reading what you write, for I see in your efforts a sense of balance that is way beyond your chronological age.  The language that you use never ceases to amaze me.  There are times (many times) when I've wondered where you learnt that particular word from - big words, complex words but the way you use them in your writing, the way you weave and spin your thoughts on paper speak of clarity.  Clarity of thought and understanding.  You know exactly where you stand on a particular issue and I totally admire that quality in you.
I cannot help but think of that incident at school you told me about.  When your class was asked whether you are for experiments being conducted on animals or against, you said you stood in the middle of the classroom while most of the kids were on either side of the classroom - clearly for or against.  You said you stood in the middle of the classroom because you had mixed feelings on this issue and then when your teacher asked you about it, you went on to clarify and state your stand in front of the classroom.  I loved the fact that after you were done with presenting your views, there were lots of kids from the sides of the classroom that moved to the middle of the classroom.  To me, that incident said one thing loud and clear - even if the whole world is on the other side, despite the peer pressure, you stood true to your thoughts and your beliefs.  I know it is not easy to do that and I do respect that streak in you. 
OK - now all those things said, I'm in no way saying that you do not drive me up the wall.  Quite the contrary.  You know as well as I do as to how easily you can drive me up the wall and there have been countless instances wherein you have had we walking on the ceiling.  There are times when you make me want to pull my hair out in clumps !!!  You've had your hand (along with your co-conspirator that is your elder sibling) in making me and Daddy grey at exponential rates.  I’m sure you will still continue to do so – in the future too.  While we are at it, let’s not even talk about you driving your sister crazy – I’ve got enough material on that topic to write a book !!!  But despite all this, I do know that within yourself, deep within your heart, you are still the same sensitive soul, the same sensitive baby that I’ve always known.
As you grow, I know you won’t need us around as much as you did a few years back.  But then again, that is the law of nature, that is a natural progression as children grow up.  As much as growing up is a learning curve for you, it is indeed a bigger learning curve for us, as your parents.  For, as parents, we have to learn the unenviable inevitable of “letting go”.   Learning, we are.  Learn, we will.  I am seeing it happen as I speak.  The erstwhile “Mummy can you come with me ?” has been steadily changing, in many different circumstances and situations, to “Can I just go by myself ?”.  I know for a fact that as you grow, you will need more and more space to yourself and I can only say that I'll try - I'll try my level best not to intrude or impose ;-).
As you grow and as we grow with you, as parents, as people, I can only tell you to be true to yourself – always.  For, you might not quite be answerable to us always but if there is one thing that each one of us is answerable to, during this sojourn of ours on this planet, it is to our own conscience, our own Inner Self.  Stand true to yourself and your beliefs and faith and you will always be able to meet that Inner Self of yours assuredly.
Always remember that The One Above looks after all his fledglings and that He has been and He will always be your true inspiration, the wind beneath your wings.  You were put on this planet with a purpose in mind, as we all are.  We are all here on a journey.  Yes, that’s what it is – a journey.  Like with all other journeys, with this one too, do remember to look around you, to soak in the delights that nature has to offer.  Respect nature, respect the people around you – whoever they may be – for each person is an individual in himself or herself (that goes for Cushy Butterfield too !!! :-DD) 
As you grow up, never completely let go of that little child who always resides within our hearts.  Never forget to marvel at the colours on a butterfly, never forget to cherish sunrises and sunsets.  Never forget to  celebrate every time you see a bird flap its wings and fly away into the faraway blue sky, for that embodies freedom.  Never forget to cherish the feel of walking barefoot on grass that is wet with fresh morning dew, never forget to relish in being able to walk through the rain without an umbrella.  Never forget to cherish the beauty of sunshine and the lightness and optimism that it brings along with it and never forget to acknowledge the fact that there may be dark clouds looming in the sky every now and then, threatening to block out that sunshine.  Never forget that even though there are dark clouds around, sunshine will eventually break through.  "Hope" and "Belief" are my mantras in the world of today.  Even though they are small words, they carry a strength in them that is uplifting. 
Last but not the least, always always remember that you are your own individual, as you strive to carve an identity of your own in the years to come.  
Happy Birthday, Precious and here's to many many more.
All the love that these two arms can possibly gather and this heart can hold, is yours.
Maiyya. :-)