31 May, 2013

When disaster struck ..... well, almost !!

(Pic Courtesy : simonshiptalk.blogspot.com via Google)

It was New Year’s Eve.  She could hear people making merry.  The wine had been flowing in the dining room and it was a party atmosphere.  Twinkling lights all around made the place seem like a perpetual disco.  She felt cheated, though.  People all around her eating, drinking, partying but no one had even thought of asking her ??  Even the man she held so close to her heart ??  Love knows no boundaries, it is said.  It is also said that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.  “He asked for it and he’s going to pay for his insensitivity” she thought as she made her way upstairs. 
There he was, all ruddy and pink, his whisky container in hand, looking quite happy and content.  Here I am, she thought angrily, all hungry, ignored and overlooked.  “No one gets away with snubbing me” she thought angrily as she launched herself on him.  Her claws sank into his forearm and she made sure she dragged her paw all the way across his arm, breaking skin, drawing blood. 
The First Officer yelped in pain and anger as he flung his pet cat away.  “I should never have brought her along” he thought angrily.  “I would not have had to if Samantha had not filed for a divorce and moved out”. 
It was a few hours later that the First Officer noticed the warning that had come in earlier – “Iceberg ahead.  Proceed with caution” it read.  Horror dawned on the First Officer that the ship had been on a collision course with the berg.  When the cat had dug her paws into his forearm, he had accidentally changed the course settings on the ship’s engines and it being New Year’s Eve, no one had noticed that the ship had changed course. 
“Disaster averted – that too by a pair of ladies” said the First Officer to himself, in utter disbelief, as he changed the settings and set the ship on course.

Thirst - a 110 word story

(Pic courtesy : narrativeandontology.blogspot.com via Google)

Extremely thirsty, he wandered, delirious, in search of water.   He saw people sipping their tall icy drinks.  His eyes gleamed as droplets of condensation made their way down the glasses.  He turned his head and saw it.  Next to the rubbish bin was a glass with some water.   He ached for water, but the wisps of memory from childhood eluded him.  As his head and his black wings drooped, the young crow had but a vague memory of a bedtime story about his ancestors.  He had not paid attention then. 
As the darkness closed in, his last images were those of the glass and the pebbles lying strewn around it.

30 May, 2013

Nature - A Bounty of Colours

(Pic Courtesy : 1ms.net via Google)

Ever imagined a world without colours ?  Try.  Difficult, is it not ?  Difficult because we’ve never tried to comprehend what the world would be like without colours in it.  I tried to imagine what a colourless world would be like and the words that came to mind were -  Bleak, depressing, boring, uninviting, dismal. 
Today morning, as I walked to school, I actually feasted my eyes on the riot of colour on the roads.  For the first time in many days, the sky stretched over HK skies – a large canvass of blue.  It could have been my imagination but it actually seemed to be beckoning to the sun with open arms.  I missed the traffic light and had to stand on the pavement for an extra couple of minutes.  As I waited for the lights to turn green again, I noticed the white balls of fluffy clouds in the sky.  It was beautiful.  Some small, some large – yet there seemed to be an odd kind of unity amongst the clouds that lay so beautifully scattered across the sky. 
The trees bore testimony to the fact that they have a timetable of their own.  While we faithfully follow the calendar, the trees seem to follow their own hearts or Mother Nature probably has a different timetable for each tree.  Some trees with their new lush green leaves and some with their brown withered leaves.  Atop the trees were whole families of birds – adult birds and the young ones.  It was a sight so beautiful that I wondered as to how I’d missed it before.  I take the same route every single day and I’d never actually taken the time or the trouble to “notice” these bounties of nature.
Summer brings out the colours in people too.  Winters usually see people dressed in jackets which tend to be basic colours.  Summer, on the other hand, brings about an explosion of colours.  Today morning, as I stood at that signal, I watched atleast four people walk past in rainbow colours and it filled the heart with cheer.
As I was mentally planning the lesson flow for today’s reading lesson, a thought did cross my mind.  We adults whiz through life, missing out on the colours and bounties of nature almost every single day.  How about children ?  Decided to take a little detour and stop by the landing from where the school farm is visible in all its glory.
The pact was to “see” – to actually “see” and take things in and not just look and forget.  The carrot – they could speak to each other or to me and they could talk as much as they wanted to.  The condition (for it cannot really be called the stick) – they had to speak in English J. 
The project started out pretty quietly with the children not quite sure as to what was expected of them.  I did not prompt them, for, I did not want to guide the thought processes.  It was a beautiful day, the surroundings bursting in an explosion of colours and what I wanted was for them to enjoy this bounty that nature offers us almost all the time.  This very bounty that we take for granted.  This abundance that more often than not, goes unnoticed. 
It started as a little buzz with a couple of kids taking notice of the crops that were growing on the farm.   Tall green stalks of corn had shot up from the arms of Mother Earth like children growing up too fast.  Amidst the swaying sea of green were the little yellow shoots peeping through as though reaching out to kiss the sun’s rays, to soak up the warmth.  One of the little ones piped up “The corn plant is happy”.  Indeed they were.  It made me look at the budding stalks of corn from a new perspective and yes, they did seem happy and content – swaying to a rhythm of their own as though caressed by the breeze, they did look happy.   Little brown squirrels were running around in lazy abandon, their bushy tails bobbing up and down as they raced the length of the farm, unrestrained and free.  The resident cat at school, a white and brown ball of fur lazed contentedly in one corner of the farm as it bathed in the sunlight that was pouring in to the farmland.    Across the road, the river rippled gently as the waters lapped the sides of the bridge and there seemed to be an unheard melody in the movement.  It was sublime and through all the chatter around, the one thing that my heart was filled with at that moment in time was peace.  Little voices chirped with excitement,  their eyes bright, hands animated – yet, there was a resounding sense of peace, of nature spreading its healing balm, of nature gently applying the brakes to fill the senses with its beauty and serenity.
The children had caught on quickly and the excitement was palpable.  The enthusiasm had spread pretty much like ripples spreading across the length of a pool.  It was almost as if they were looking at things through a different lens – a lens that brought out the glory of colours with the perfections and the faults.  One of the children pointed out to something that all the others had missed – a green plant which had one streak of brown in it – just one little shoot in that plant had decided it did not want to grow and was withering and brown.  Yet, that little “imperfection” brought out the beauty of the surrounding green of the plant. 
The squeals were aplenty as they noticed the little butterflies fluttering their little wings, settling on the little flowers and then flitting away in a burst of colours.  One big butterfly was resting idly on the landing and did not seem perturbed by the bunch of kids who, by now, were like little Energizer Bunnies.  The butterfly continued its siesta, drawing gushes of admiration from the kids by lazily fluttering open its beautiful wings.  “Red, yellow, green and brown” piped little voices as the butterfly worked its magic.  We noticed a couple of caterpillars who seemed to be on a lazy morning stroll and a couple of beetles that were trying to figure out the process of climbing down steps.  Leaves brought in, these little critters were duly rescued from what would have been sure death had they stayed on the stairs (for, the stairs turn into a scene from Jumanji with hundreds of feet stamping and stomping downstairs during recess time) and off we went, our little troupe – into the little room that we reserve for Group Reading sessions. 
The book I’d chosen for them today had to do with nature too.  A caterpillar, a cricket and a butterfly – these were what the story revolved around.  It warmed the heart to see them use the language so freely – something that they would otherwise hesitate to do.  It was almost as if that little tryst with Mother Nature and her bountiful colours had unleashed the free spirit in them.  We did not stop at the book – the discussion went on and very soon we were talking about rainbows and the spring flowers.
After the lesson, as we walked out of the classroom, the weather was still sunny but there was rain as well.  It was one of those rather infrequent combinations that one does not really witness all the time.  We did not go back to the classroom immediately.  We waited.  We waited outside, lined up against the railings in the corridor, some with noses pressed between the railings, for they are indeed little ones.  We waited, necks craned, eyes seeking and raised towards the skies.  We waited for the sunlight to fall on that one elusive drop of rain which would then set off a burst of colours across the sky in the wonder that we know as the rainbow.  It was not to happen.  Not yet.  But I’m sure they will witness the magic of a rainbow someday and I’m sure they will revel in the magic that a rainbow unleashes.
Like George Washington Carver once said
I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.

25 May, 2013

The dude turns ten !!!!! Happy Birthday, Abhay !


The dude who shares my genes :-)

You turn 10 today. 

(Picture Collage by Aparna Venkitaraman)

Yesterday morning, I walked into your room to get something and looked at both the bunks of your bunk bed.  Macadamia on the upper bunk and you on the lower bunk.   I stood there, rooted to the floor.  I found I could not take my eyes off both of you.  It took me hurtling back a decade or so and in my mind’s eye, I could see both of you as the little babies you still are – inside yourselves. 

Parents are often faced with a lot of questions as they bring their children up.  I did too.  Until a few years back, the questions were more on the lines of “What should I iron for him to wear today ?” “What books should I get from the library for him to read ?” “Which cartoons would he like to watch ?”.  As you turn ten, as you leave the single digits behind, the one question I find me asking myself is “Is he still a little child ?”.  The answer, as it turns out, is not meant to be simple.

It used to be much easier to carry you when you were a lot littler and in the innards of my heart, in the deepest depths of my mind, I still carry those gurgles and those squeals that picking you up and throwing you up in the air used to provoke.   No, I don’t intend to pick you up and throw you up in the air now.  Fear not !!  A good hug will always be welcome, though ! :-)

Somewhere along the way (I fail to realize when exactly this happened), you started picking out your own clothes and a part of my mind did register the fact that none of your clothes had the Little Einsteins on them.  Somewhere along the way, you TV tastes changed too -  watching cartoons gave way to  enjoying TV shows that had people in it.  Little Einsteins gave way to Castle and Bones,   Spiderman and Superman cartoons gave way to The Fantastic Four and The Avengers.    Somewhere along the way, the picture books have given way to full fledged  chapter books and little novels, the Geronimo Stiltons have given way to Roald Dahls and the like.

Quite some time back, I realized that you know much much more about a lot of stuff than I do. History, Geography, Science, General Knowledge – these are just a few examples.  Yes, it is about time that I do admit that you’re way way ahead and I don’t think I’m ever going to catch up with you.   Will keep trying to, though :-). Now you know why I kind of turn green in the face when you want me, daddy and Macadamia to take one of your manifold quizzes !!  Quit making a Mickey out of me, I say !!!

You’ve caught people unawares with your leadership qualities.  When I saw the way you were at the helm of your group for the Market Day Stalls, when I see the way you handle your responsibilities as a representative of your class in the Students Council at school, the image that floats across my mind is that of the meek, timid little guy that used to be scared of confrontations in kindergarten and early Primary school years – even for something as simple as taking the window seat on the school bus.  You’ve come a long long way since then, dude.  A very long way.

What do I wish for you on your tenth birthday, as you leave single digits and enter the second decade of your life ?

Kindness of heart is something you’ve been born with.  We realized that very early on as all four of us grew together as a family.  You are an extremely sensitive soul and as you grew, the boldness and the confidence have surfaced but underneath those qualities, you still have a heart that’s as mushy as a bar of chocolate that’s been left out of the fridge.  I hope and pray that that kindness of heart always stays with you.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you are too sensitive a person.  Sensitivity is something that is needed in the world of today.  Feel for the people around you, feel for your friends, feel for the world, for that still keeps alive that beacon of hope in the heart.

Inquisitiveness is second nature to you.  Always yearn to learn for learning has no age limits.  Reach for the stars, stretch yourself as much as you can.  Through all this though, remember, always remember to stop and help along the way.  I know you do this a lot because I’ve heard this from your teacher.  I know you do this because two years in a row, two different sets of peers have nominated you for the class award and the one thing they’ve always mentioned is how knowledgeable, kind, helpful and approachable you always are.  Keep that going – now and always.

Treasure your friends, for, friends are a huge support system.  They are the hands that help you get up when you take a fall.  Be loyal to your friends for, always remember, you get what you give.  It is always a two way street.  Appreciate your friends and family even when you don’t like them (meaning even when we get tough with you, do remember that we are doing it for your good. Enough said !) 

My heart soars when you work hard and win.  There have been many such instances over the past few years.   However, as a person who has “seen” life about four times more than you have right now, I do wish you challenges as well.  There will be times when you come in second, third, fourth, fifth or whatever – numbers don’t really matter.  Do remember that it is very important to have challenges through life.  Challenges build strength of character, challenges force you to give things your best and then some and in doing that you grow, you grow in more ways than one.

The other day you told me that one of your dreams is to try and conquer Mount Everest one day.  Live your dreams.  Live them with a passion for way too many dreams are given up on too easily.  It is not meant to be so.  Follow them, even if it means taking risks along the way. 

As you step into the second decade of your life, I pray that you always feel God’s hand over your head, His light shining upon your path, guiding you in all your endeavours.  Most importantly, always, always remember that you are loved for what you are.  We love you for being YOU.

As you step into the second decade of your life, what flashes before me are scenes from your babyhood, toddlerhood and early childhood days.   Those cherished scenes from early childhood I hold very dear and those precious memories will stay within my heart – always treasured , always cherished.

I sum up my thoughts thus :

Our lives changed once Macadamia and you came into it
As you both grow up, back to those times the thoughts do flit
Was it really that long ago, I wonder
That the two of you, our thoughts and hearts  did plunder
As days flew into months and months into years
Those days from your childhood, in my heart, are seared
From year to year, as life’s journey veers
We watch both of you grow, we watch you fight your fears
You are growing up and growing up fast
But in my heart, memories of your baby years, I hold steadfast
As, towards your future, you take your steps
Little baby memories, in my heart, will always be kept
As you grow up, if you happen to flounder and lose your way
If you’re not sure of what to do or what to say
Remember that we are always here for you
Above all, dearhearts, always remember that we love you
And that you always have our open wings to fly back to.

On that note, my very own young dude, here’s wishing you a very Happy Birthday and here’s to many many more, Precious.

Eight more years to go, dude ……. :-) ….. you know exactly what I mean :-)

With all my love and then some,

Your " gene"  Partner in Crime :-)

15 May, 2013

DuckTanic sinks in HongKong

(Pic courtesy : guardian.co.uk via Google)
Excerpt from the Quack Quack Daily
“It is with profound sadness and regret that we announce the passing away of one of our brethren – DuckTanic.  DuckTanic met his end on the 15th of May 2013 in the waters of the Victoria Harbour in HongKong.  We hope he takes a lot of fond memories with him, having travelled through many countries".
Our reporters however, have been given to understand that DuckTanic’s last few days were quite traumatic.  During a conversation with one of our reporters Dilly Duck, DuckTanic is reported to have said that he was finding it quite difficult to breathe.  The choking sensation has stayed with him ever since he floated into HongKong.  DuckTanic had known about the rising air pollution levels in HongKong but he decided to take the risk and spread his message of peace by making HongKong one of his stops.  Though many of the ads on TV and the newspapers in Duckyland purported and presented a rather beautiful picture of HongKong,   DuckTanic, choked and gagged his way through his last few days.   Not unlike his ancestor, the Titanic, his body too sprung a leak, not because of an iceberg, but because of the polluted waters in HK’s Victoria Harbour.  Industrial waste has never been good for ducks' health.  Seriously makes us, in Duckyland, worry about the health of people in HK.
The government of Duckyland has taken up the issue with the HK government.  We have not been able to contact the Chief Executive of HK because he is apparently busy building secret rooms in his house.  We also tried to contact Mr.Jasper Tsang, the current President of the Legislative Council in HK but could not get in touch with him during the day or the night.  Mr.Tsang is apparently busy trying to just garner enough LEGCO members to meet the quorum requirements of the LEGCO.  In fact, Mr.Tsang had requested that DuckTanic make his presence felt in LEGCO because he would then have taken up many of the seats in the LEGCO and meetings could have gone as planned.  Mr. Tsang also felt that it would have been safer to have DuckTanic attending the LEGCO meetings instead of the elected Councillors because DuckTanic would not end up throwing bananas at the CE.
Our reporters managed to have a quick word with Mrs. Anson Chan who opined that given a choice, she would have fought to give DuckTanic a right to vote in the next CE elections, given the fact that the only thing on her mind right now is universal suffrage.  “We are even willing to give the citizens of Duckyland a vote” said Mrs. Chan yesterday.
Ms.Regina Yip could not be contacted as she was busy getting a few wig fitted.
Mr.Alan Leung of the Civic Party was his usual self righteous, constipated self as he unilaterally blamed the Government of HK for the untimely demise of DuckTanic.  Our reporters however, thought it fit not to take Mr.Leong seriously because Mr.Leong’s immediate knee jerk reaction to just about everything is to place the blame on the government of HK.  Ms.Audrey Eu, also of the Civic Party, was not available for comment as she apparently had a very important meeting with her hair stylist at a beauty salon.
Mr. Albert Ho brushed aside our requests for a phone interview because he is apparently busy trying to Occupy Central.  For a person with as bloated an ego as Mr.Ho, occupying a small place like the Central District should not be a problem at all, opined Dally Duck, our Chief Reporter.
We tried to approach Mr.Fernando Cheung, the Vice-Chairman of the Labour Party since we thought the Labour Party would be the kind that actually listens to the voice of the people in HK.  Apparently not because Mr.Cheung is busy nosing around the earthquake hit regions of Sichuan Province trying to find out if money has been hidden inside any of the newly constructed buildings there. 
Many of the other legislators we tried to contact were not available for comment as they were way too busy planning the next filibuster.
Mr.Leung Kwok Hung was too busy to talk to us since he was expected to spend more than an hour in the bathroom shampooing and conditioning his long tresses.  We quite admire those tresses, for they can give Rapunzel a run for her money any day.  Dally Duck thinks Leung Kwok Hung should seriously consider changing his name to Rapunzel as this would help him garner more votes from the people of HK who, given the choice, would vote for just about any cartoon character rather than a human being.
There are numerous other conspiracy theories floating around, say our reporters.  They have heard whispers that suggest that DuckTanic could have been brought down by the hordes of tourists from the Mainland who thought DuckTanic was like the Bun Festival in Cheung Chau.  Whoever got to the top first, won.  It is said that the mad rush in wanting to clamber to the top brought about the downfall of our dear DuckTanic.  Some others believe that DuckTanic died because of the amount of rubbish that was stuffed up his nostrils and his bill by the mainland tourists, for whom anything and everything is a huge rubbish bin.
Another conspiracy theory suggests that it was the Japanese that were responsible for bringing down the DuckTanic in HK waters because of the ongoing dispute over the Diaoyu Islands while some others believe that it was the Philippines that was responsible as they sought to take revenge over the way people in HK reacted after the tourists were shot down in a bus in the Philippines.  Some reports suggest that DuckTanic died when he went into a hyperventilation mode triggered by the constant exposure to loud sounds emanating from all corners of HK over the weekend.  The language is said to have sounded more like loud staccato noises that one associates with a constant assault on the senses with an assault rifle of high calibre and high speed.  The language was later identified as Tagalog.
As things stand right now, we have not been able to get in touch with anybody in HK who can give us some answers to our questions.  Makes us in Duckland seriously wonder who the common man in HK takes his problems to. 
The only people who said they genuinely felt sorry for DuckTanic and his untimely demise were a whole lot of grandmas and grandpas we spoke to.  They had time to speak to us because they were all patiently waiting in a line to collect newspapers in the early hours of the morning as they needed the discount coupons in the newspapers. 
They were the only ones that had the time to say “Rest in peace, DuckTanic”. 
Amen to that !! Quack Quack !! 

14 May, 2013

Sampradaaya Ganaanjali - in praise of Lord Guruvayoorappan

(Pic courtesy : hindudevotionalblog.com via Google)

May is turning out to be a busy month for the Indian community in HK – a culturally busy month.  It all started off with Kathakitathom on the 4th of May which completely blew us away.  Then came another invite, this one for a programme called “Sampradaaya - Ganaanjali” on the 11th of May at City Hall.
Lord Guruvayoorappan has always had a special place in my heart.  At my parents’ home in Bombay, we used to have a full size portrait of Guruvayoorappan in the living room, framed and mounted on the wall.  It was strategically placed too – in the sense that one could see the picture while walking around the compound and one could see the picture whilst walking on the road.   Every day, every single time I left home for something, for anything the one thing my sights would always be focussed on was that picture of the Lord.  There was something innately peaceful and pacifying about that gentle smile that one sees on Lord Guruvayoorappan’s  face.  It was and in a special little corner of my heart, still is an all knowing, all encompassing smile – a smile that seems to reach out and say “I know you for what you are.  Worry not, I am always with you.” 
This feeling was fortified as the beauty of the Narayaneeyam was revealed to a bunch of us (through our pre-teen and teenage years) through weekly classes that were conducted every Sunday afternoon.  It is equally delightful now, to be able to pass on the splendour, the magnificence of the Srimad Narayaneeyam to Macadamia and Pecan and it is an extremely enchanting feeling to see them enjoying learning the Narayaneeyam and its meaning.
Sampradaaya was presented by Tharangini in conjunction with Baithak and Palghat Cousins.  What made this even more special was the fact that it was for a noble cause.  This programme was put together and this labour of love organized as a fund raiser for the Shree Guruvayoorappan Temple in Kolkata.  It was supposed to be an evening of Bhajans on Lord Guruvayoorappan and we, as I’m sure many others did too, needed no further exhortation to attend Sampradaaya. 
It was indeed a beautiful evening as artistes from HK sung from their hearts and wove a web of magic.  The evening started off with Krithika Chandrashekhar performing a bhajan by Saint Soordas which absolutely captivated the audience with its depth and magical rendition.  There was Kaustubh Paranjpe with two abhangs in Marathi that touched the heart, there was Poorna Mysoor who beautifully rendered the age old “Krishna Nee Beygane Bharo” in shades of Hindustani music.  Playing the tabla during the first half of the performance was Mr. Pradeep Lad who is said to be an expert on Marathi film music.  There was Suresh with two lovely songs – one each in Malayalam and Tamil.  There was another lovely rendition by Jairam and another heartwarming song from Narayanmoorthy.  The lively, vivacious Shruti Pendharkar further enchanted the audience with two more beguiling melodies and it was wonderful to watch the musical chemistry between Shruti and the table master Yannick Even who brought the tabla to life during the second half of the performance. 
For those who missed this wonderful and sublime evening of divine music, there are three more programmes coming up next month, in June.  Three evenings, three wonderful opportunities to indulge yourselves in some wonderful music, to encourage and boost the passion that the local artistes quite evidently have for music, and to support a noble cause in raising funds for the Guruvayoorappan temple to be built in Kolkata.
Kudos to Tharangini and Jairam for keeping the tradition of Indian Classical Music alive in HK and for bringing forth and staging some of the absolutely wonderful, burgeoning musical artistes.  My deepest admiration to all the artistes who so painstakingly feed their passion for the performing arts through regular practice and performances. 
I remember reading once, a quote which goes “Music speaks what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it rest, heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from heaven to the soul”.
I, for one, cannot agree more.

Some more information about the Shree Guruvayoorappan Temple in Kolkata
This temple is run per Guruvayur methods - all the equipment, stones used for the temple construction, the daily poojas and the priests etc, are from Guruvayur. The sanctum sanctorum was done up in 1995, and now they have land to build a gopuram, the foundation stone for which has already been laid by the Guruvayoor high priest.
The budget is huge (about Rs 7 crore), and the idea is to keep the temple self-sufficient even after the construction finishes, so any big ticket donations will be of specific help. Moreover, help / seva could be provided in many different ways. If you have friends/family in Kolkata or elsewhere who would like to help, kindly let them know too.
In case anyone wants to find out directly from the temple about this project, these are the contacts -
Mr S Sekhar (Mridangam Sekhar in Southern Avenue);
Mobile: +91 93397-21863; Landline : (+9133) 2466-0709.
e-mail - sgscal@gmail.com;
Temple phone: 2463-3859 / 6536-5140

08 May, 2013

The TamBrahm Series Part 5 - Kalyana Saddhi and Nalangu

(Picture courtesy : mywedding.com via Google)

While the Mapillai (groom) and the Mattuponnu (daughter in law though literally translated it stands for CowGirl !!) are busy finding feet to prostrate in front of, most of the crowd would, quintessentially, have made a beeline towards the dining hall.  In the olden days (I mean days when I used to attend TamBrahm weddings regularly a.k.a my school / college days) – that is not to say that I’m Jurassic – a traditional lunch was always served the traditional way – on a banana leaf.  The dining hall at a TamBrahm wedding fills with people faster than a playground filling with people during a fire drill. 
Saddhis or Sadhyas are the official hallmark of any important occasion in a TamBrahm circle.  We TamBrahms do not eat to live.  No Sireee !!  We have our priorities absolutely right and we follow them to the T.  We live to eat – it’s as simple as that.  A Saddhi just serves to prove my point.  It consists of atleast 6 types of vegetables – each cooked in a distinct style and then there is the usual Trinity of Food – Sambar, Rasam, Buttermilk.  The payasam manages to wedge itself between these three rather unobtrusively.
Tired after getting engaged to each other all over again and then finally married, the by now weary groom and bride finally trudge off to the dining hall to have their lunch.  If they’re lucky, their lunch would be on the same banana leaf and the whole process would be as unobtrusive as it can.  When I say unobtrusive what I actually mean is that the bride and groom would get away with just about 90% of the clan gathered there and breathing down their necks.  I remember feeling like some sort of an exotic microbe being examined under the microscope and till date I do regret not being able to actually “taste” the food on our wedding lunch menu.  Being a microbe under a microscope is not exactly an exalting feeling, you see.  The lunch, apparently, was excellent.  Thanks for that, folks !!
Once the bride and groom are seated, not willing to give the flustered groom and bride a millimetre of space to themselves, the whole clan kind of descends on the hapless couple exhorting them to eat from each others’ banana leaves.  Worse still, it is quite commonplace to see a bunch of lecherous relatives insisting that the groom feed the bride something from his leaf and vice versa.  Many couples do, under the watchful, gleaming eyes of the said relatives who make it clear that they have one thing and just one thing on their minds right then.  They look pretty much like I guess the witch did when she trapped Hansel and Gretel in her house – sans smacking their lips in glee.  
There have been times when I’ve felt that those big laddoos that are served on the banana leaf could be put to much better use than the bride or the groom eating the laddoo.  I mean – just imagine the possibilities.  A bunch of cackling relatives who just won’t stop talking, staring and just won’t leave you alone.  You have two huge laddoos on your banana leaf.  At that point in time, those two laddoos are absolutely potent missiles, if not anything else.  Use them, people !!  The multiple ways in which those laddoos can be put to good use is something I’m not going to pen down here – I leave that to the absolutely wonderful abilities of your fertile imagination.
Nalangu is invariably next on the menu, or should I say next on the agenda.  It is usually squeezed in after lunch is done and over with and before the reception begins.  It’s a sight to behold, truth be told – two grown up adults in their own right sitting across from each other and rolling (of all the things) a coconut in the space between them.  I mean, come on people !!  Why can’t the bride and groom play lagori with the coconut, huh ?!  All those laddu kuttis and manoharam kuttis can be put to good use, right ?  Also, it would save the bride’s mom and the groom’s mom the trouble of hacking away at the kuttis to equitably distribute the same between the multiple number of mamis and athais who are bound to grace the occasion. Put a kutti (a pyramid shaped sweet) in the centre and let the bride and the groom play lagori with the coconut.  If they manage to hit each other with the coconut, there could always be a “retired hurt” rule in the books. 
The bride and groom have to actually try and wrest the coconut from each other.  I remember being pulled alongwith the coconut.  Ayyo !!  Yo – provide something wrestleworthy !!  Ek coconut se kiska kya hoga ??
Nah !  Ain’t happening !!  While the groom and bride roll the coconut around, looking extremely flustered, hordes of mamis would be seen giggling at what usually seems like a private joke.  Thank the Lord for that.  One wouldn’t  really want to listen to their jokes then lest the coconut be turned into one of those missiles like the ones being made in North Korea.  The bride is usually asked to sing a song and invite the groom for the Nalangu.  What was that again ??  Invite the groom for the nalangu ???  He as much got married that day as did the bride, did he not ??  So why does he need to be invited ??  Also, given the choice, brides would probably say they are better off not inviting the groom because you see – No Groom No Nalangu !!  Simble !!  Again, if the bride is someone like me, she would probably scare the living daylights out of the people there just by singing.  Such is the power of my music !!  That afternoon, I scarred people for life just by singing !!   Before you ask, the answer is "No !  No Regrets" !! for having scared them.  They asked for it !!  Yet again, before you ask, I did not sing "Ramba Ho Ho Ho Samba Ho Ho Ho".
The bride and the groom would be asked to anoint each other with chandan and kumkum and sprinkle rose water and after all the trouble that they would have taken to mess each others’ hair and faces up, they would be asked to crush and scatter pappadam on each others’ heads.  What a waste of good pappadam, I say.   There has been many an instance where the groom has been left looking like one of those dacoits from Sholay, what with the larger than earth tikka (not panner tikka) on his forehead and the bride has ended up looking like a cross between Kannagi and Lady GaGa. 
I, for one, would say have Nalangu by all means. Oh yes !  We must !!  Since I’m not the one going to be on the hot seat for an innings of Nalangu, what’s the harm in insisting that Nalangu be a ritual in all Tambrahm weddings in the future, eh ? 
 Instead of the pappadam thing, why not have a pie fight ?  That way, ancient relatives can be renamed too – Chocolate Padma Mami, Banana Raman Mama (better still Vazha Pazha Raman Mama if he gets hit by a banana pie), Kaapi Lakshmi Athai,  Custard Lalitha Chitti, – depending on the pie they’ve been smacked with.  Imagine a Blueberry Vasantha, a Strawberry Krishnan, a Pumpkin Tripurasundari, a Lemon Narayanan.  The list, folks, is endless.  Oh and somewhere along the way, the whole thing might not stop at just pies.  It just might end up as a pie and tart fight.  Now that should make things really interesting !!
The poor kids who have had to endure two days of the wedding ritual (as mute bystanders, I mean – not that I’m promoting child marriage here, just in case someone misunderstands), have indeed earned their fun time.  Line up the priests.  That should perk the kids up  big time.  Line up the priests and get the kids to throw wet sponges – Mr.Bean style.  Priests nowadays would consent to just about anything on two conditions – as long as they get paid for it and as long as they do not have to recite mantrams (vedic hyms) full and proper.  Using priests for target practice would be a dream come true for the kids because they simply cannot miss !!
All it takes is a bit of “neeyat” and the whole Nalangu thing could be taken to a different level altogether. 
Hmmm …. I’d said I’d be clubbing the three post-wedding aspects of a TamBrahm wedding together in this post.  Kalyana Saddhi, Nalangu, Reception and Shanti Muhurtham but upon more contemplation, it has been decided that last two deserve a post of their own. 
So be it. 
One more edition to follow ….. I don’t really know when. 

06 May, 2013

Kathakitathom - The Rhythm of Nirvana

(Image courtesy : kshk.org)
Martha Graham once said
“Art is eternal, for it reveals the inner landscape, which is the soul of man”.
It is often said that the beauty of art lies in the fact that it can be used as a powerful medium to transport people to a magical land.  It is often said that art forms can release in people, the ability to imagine scenarios beyond what they had thought possible in their realms of imagination.  It is often said that art forms mesmerise people – they hold people spellbound, they enthral, they charm, they fascinate, they captivate.  It is often said that art feeds the very depths of human spirits, it feeds the soul.
I’d heard of all these and much much more about art and its various forms since I was a child.  Born into a musical family,  I’d been exposed to the manifold nuances of classical music from an early age.  In the process of learning classical music, despite having experienced the simplicity and the complexity of music, I’d never been able to identify myself with that form of the Arts.  Never before though, had I actually experienced the magical transportation into a completely different world - with art forms as the conduit.  Like the saying goes “there is always a first time”.  That, for me, was last Saturday evening when I watched the Abhinava Dance Company perform Kathakitathom.
Each piece presented by ADC on Saturday was a masterpiece in itself.  The performances dazzled on many different levels, they touched and played with the audience’s hearts like harpists on a harp.  They appealed, at times, to the emotions of love and passion – tenderness, affection, love and compassion – all portrayed outstandingly through gestures and body language.   
It was admirable, for I found myself transported to the middle of the forest when watching Shakuntala and Dushyanta.  Adding to the magic and giving an unbelievable depth to the piece were the graceful dancers in the background who seemed to float on air as they moved across the stage.  It was almost as if the entire story which I had hitherto only read in an Amar Chitra Katha, played out in the canvass of my mind.  It was beautiful, to say the least.  What had hitherto been a mythological story just bloomed to life on Saturday.  I was beside myself, happy for Shakuntala when she found her love in Dushyanta.  I found myself thanking the bee for having made them meet and a part of me actually felt sorry for the little bee and for the slap that it had to endure in the process :-). 
With their rendition of Meera Madhuri  they so enchantingly portrayed “love in separation”.  Aside of evoking strong feelings of empathy for Meerabai as she pined for her beloved one could not help but smile at the mischief that was so supremely embodied in playing the part of Krishna.  The lovable impishness that is the very essence of Lord Krishna was portrayed exquisitely.
The most powerful rendition was the piece on Abhimanyu – Veera where the artistes sought to portray the sentiment of valour.  They could not have chosen a better personality than the dauntless, fearless 16 year old warrior Abhimanyu.  There was a point during this performance when I found myself gripping the seat handles because what it manifested in me was this insane urge to stand up and scream “Stop it.  Stop it.  Leave him alone.  Please leave him alone”.  At the end of this piece, when Abhimanyu is shown lying on the battlefield, it was almost as if one could smell the dust in the air, one could reach out and feel  the treachery on the part of the Kauravas who broke almost all the rules of battle that were supposed to be followed.  One could feel Abhimanyu’s anguish, not because be lay on the field broken and bleeding but because one could relate to his feeling of “having let down” his loved ones despite his best efforts.  At the end of this piece, all I remember feeling was a sensation of being choked.  There was this lump in my throat that just refused to go away.  There was a distinct sense of outrage against the Kauravas for what they purportedly did eons ago on the battlefields of the Kurukshetra.  Once again, the transportation to a land, a time and a place, to an era an eternity before – was magically complete. 
Their rendition of Rang was what it promised to be – an explosion of vivid colours and breathtaking movements.  It was a spectacular unleashing of energy on the stage – so powerful yet so graceful.
With their finale, Kathakitathom, ADC quite literally drew the audience in – in what can only be described as an explosive finale – a climax, a culmination that left the audience wanting more.
What I also noticed on Saturday last was the presence of a great many youngsters (not that I consider myself old, truth be told J, in the audience.  All the youngsters, I am sure, would have benefited a great deal from having watched the performance on more levels than one, on more planes than one. 
It is quite normal and natural for children to ponder about god.  How do we know that God exists ?  is a question that is commonly thrown at parents at some time or the other.  It is a question that is born out of natural curiosity and out of a need to validate that there indeed is a Universal Force out there, directing our actions.  Try explaining that to youngsters and there are times when one is quite tongue tied.  I’m sure a great many child that day must have realised, while watching Meerabai and Krishna on stage, that God is seemingly everywhere.  In  many young minds, watching Lord Krishna watching over and helping Meerabai through her actions, must have driven home the fact that God is omnipresent and omnipotent.
The rendition of Abhimanyu brought youngsters face to face with a harsh, hard fact of life.  Life is more often than not, unfair.  There are rules – yes, there always are rules.  But it is not necessary that people always follow them.  It is not necessary that people adhere to, respect and go by rules all the time.  This is so true of life itself, is it not ?  I’m sure there have been numerous instances where people have had to come face to face with this harsh reality of life.  The more important message that it conveyed to the youngsters out there is that one does not give up, one should not give up.  Stand up and fight for what you believe in, even if you have the whole world against you.  That was a very powerful message indeed to deliver to the up and coming generations and a very important one at that.
The synchrony of all the dancers sent forth yet another extremely influential message to the audience – in that it brought forth the power of teamwork.    
Saturday evening gave credence to a quote by Havelock Ellis that I’ve heard many a times “Dancing is the loftiest, the most moving, the most beautiful of arts, because it is not mere translation or abstraction from life; it is life itself”.
The music, the lighting, the costumes and the grace and talent of the dancers that evening brought together one of the most enthralling, alluring, rejuvenating and captivating performances that I’ve witnessed in a long long time.  It is an evening that will forever remain engraved on the canvass of my mind.
Last but not the least, a sincere thanks to KSHK for having organized this programme and we look forward to many more.  It was also extremely heartening to see the efforts being taken by KSHK in collaborating with NGOs back home in India, in helping provide youngsters with a stepping stone towards a better future – through education.  It is indeed a thoroughly commendable effort on the part of KSHK.   I, for one, doff my hat to both – KSHK for their laudable efforts in endeavouring to better the lives of a section of the population back home and ADC for having been the medium in bringing forth the beauty, the splendour and the magnificence of an incredible art form.