Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Visiting Relatives

Depending on how you look at such things, this business of going and paying respects to various relatives can be a unique pleasure or a royal pain-in-the-backside. Generally, I have a good, positive attitude towards it. If they live really far away and the child is in a particularly cranky state then I get a little worried, but otherwise it can be quite good fun, in my opinion. Of course if they live close by, I go alone, it is unannounced so the chance of being stuffed to my face with a meal is low, it can be quite more pleasurable.

So when aunt asked if my mom would join her in such a visit to an old cousin of theirs, and mom refused stating a billion reasons, I immediately jumped up. The child was asleep. I snuck out a dress (cannot visit in Capri pants bought a million years ago), and changed in the shoe foyer and off we went. Aunt sponsored the mandatory fruit selection to take with us, refused to indulge my insistence of walking, and confidently stepped out of the auto saying it is one of these three houses here. I had my doubts. She had not come here for five years she said. ‘Oh well, if we don’t find it we can eat the mangoes ourselves,’ said I.

When we found the typical Iyengar marks on the door we coolly rung the bell. ‘Who is it?’ they said from upstairs. ‘Its me,’ said aunt, then added her name, and who we wanted to meet, as an afterthought. We were ushered into a chaotic receiving room. It was spacious in an old fashioned way. Contained cane furniture. When I declared my identity, I was put on the comfortable chair, under the fan. An aged relative I remembered as a quirky fellow in love for decades with a film star was hanging around, looking vague. He refused to fall for aunt’s baits. Maintained a near silence, staring into the distance the entire duration of our visit.

The lady we were visiting is a formidable force in the family. Has lived abroad for years. Has made a comfortable, even rich living in all these decades after the tragic loss of her husband in a mining incident, for herself, her three children, and sundry siblings and other relatives attached to her. When I was younger, I was pretty scared of her. She shoots questions and expects answers. She does not tolerate shyness, wussiness, crying and what not. Of course now that I have lived this life and have pondered so much on meaning of life etc. it was a great meeting. We got on well. My aunt expressed surprise at my ability to have meaningful conversation. Pshaw. Drawing room conversation with a garrulous older person, how tough can it be? They tried to feed us some random snacks, threatened us with dinner. Arthritis, traffic, autorickshaws, and my dear grandfather (passed on four years ago) were the hot topics.

It was really nice to visit. I know I can talk to anyone, as long as the pressure to watch out for the kid or to talk in tamizh that Chennai folks can understand is not there. But there is something more when they are relatives. An additional bit of comfort perhaps. Having in common people we both love and respect perhaps. I even did not mind much that she expressed extreme surprise that I had a child and that I was past thirty. Its fine, I accept it now, the only way I can look my age is to wear a sari all the time. Well, maybe when I am past forty. Few years to go!

I visited lots more relatives too this time. It was great fun, I laughed a lot, drank a lot of different teas and coffees, bought mangoes on the way always, and returned home with loads of little boxes to put kumkum in. Must remember to collect myself some of those and hand it to the women who pass through my house. It’s a tradition involving giving, with no expectations in return, I like it!

Friday, 11 May 2007

Vacation Time!

Its summer vacation time, as it were. I am going back home among bells and gongs. Just the child and me. The husband will be immensely missed, much tensions had about his dinner and breakfast, and also much anger felt regarding perceived messy state of house. Nevertheless, it will be a vacation. The best part is to get away from Mumbai, which is getting stickier by the minute.

My readers need not fear or groan however. Thanks to Reliance, I am expecting to be blogging away to glory. So when I manage to create more verses to the Ball of Kerrymuir, you all will be the first ones to hear.

Till then,


Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Ten Vague Wishes

I am passing by the local fountain art-piece at the corner of the road, thinking, hey maybe this is a wishing well. What would I wish for, if it were so? Of course, I don't believe in such things so it will not be anything serious, but just in case someone was listening and went through the trouble of trying to make it all come true for me. Small things I wish I can do before lying down to rest. Simple dreams that are possible to achieve, without compromising much. Finally, wishes that, if they were to come true, would not increase my stress levels!!

Kayo, ready, launch-
1. Sit on my haunches and smoke a beedi
2. Drive an auto, preferably a bright purple one
3. Do the backstroke
4. Dance when sober
5. Ride a unicycle/tandem bike
6. Do five pull/chin-ups
7. Play soccer
8. Figure out what goes on in a spa
9. Sleep on a terrace, under the stars
10. Climb a tree

(in no particular sequence).

So come on, higher powers, lets rock, and umm roll.

Friday, 4 May 2007

Teacher Teacher

The thought comes to me almost unbidden. Of course the timing is right. The term has ended just now, and even as we are all busy finalizing grades and correcting exam papers and what not, the younguns have that look on their face – like they just ate really yummy candy. The smiles stretch out a mile. Some of them are running around getting their paperwork all sorted out before going away for good, others are just leaving for vacation, waiting for their grades, but for all of them, the way is out, out. If not this year, surely the next one?

Anyway, as a teacher, the principal emotion that one deals with is, loss. Every year, bunches of students leave you and go. Most of them have been annoying, you have hated the smirks on their faces, you have loathed their callousness and the devil-may-care attitude, you have openly criticized their dress, those nasty, dirty jeans, you have pulled your hair out while grading the exam papers and wondered if any of them wrote those four-lined copy writing things in their school, but finally, once they are gone, you miss them. There is a distinct sense of loss, a feeling of having misplaced something.

Within a week or two however, you discover that the next batch is virtually identical with the one that has just left, even the names repeat, the commoner ones showing up some five times in each group. Even the strange sounding names do not particularly matter, there seems to be uniformity even in the fact that some 10% of the names you encounter each year sound, well, foreign, sort of.

I remember a long ago encounter in a video shop, back home. Video as in those magnetic wound tape things that were monstrously big in size. In a sudden break from the even keel of pseudo-intellectualism practised at home, my parents decided to rent a video, after arguments, a hindi movie, starring Amitabh Bacchan, was to be chosen. We trooped down to the video store conveniently located at the end of the road. There even as the most exciting transaction of renting the video was in progress, a white-haired old man sidled up to my dad and went through the usual motions of greeting. On our way back, when dad told us that the white-haired person used to be his student, we burst out laughing, come on now, that’s impossible we said. And why not, dad challenged us. Because he is so old, we said.

But its true you know, five years pass since the boy graduated, the skinny fellow in that shirt of indeterminate colour and those faded jeans. You remember his smile though you don’t remember any of his academic accomplishments. The name is at the back of your tongue, so when he says Madam do you remember me, you hum and haw. You have not forgotten him, no way (is it possible to ever forget a person whom you have taught? Whose papers you have corrected, whose presentation you have listened to and evaluated – all a tad harshly, of course, that is your style now, isn’t it?). Anyway there he is in front of you, five years hence. He is all spiffy. With his B-School accent and ironed shirts bought at Raymonds, and gleamy shoes. A tad sweaty and uncomfortable in your office, under the aged fan, probably used to air-conditioning. But he is there, and he is not a boy any more. He is an adult, twenty-five years old and looking it. Perhaps he is here to discuss recruitment to his company. Perhaps he has come to invite you to his wedding. I am sure, he is looking at you and going, heck, she looks just the same as back then. A few more white hairs, perhaps a kilo here and there, but she is the same. He looks around your office and judges that to have remained the same as well. Nothing changes here does it? He says. Of course not, that’s our big selling point, remember, you joke back at him. Fighting with yourself, convincing yourself to treat him like the adult with a responsible job that he is. No more that skinny boy asking for two extra marks on his exam paper. That one is lost, gone from my life for good. Pff.

Well that’s all I had to say. Feeling proud of their achievements and feeling good about what you perceive is your contribution to that is all fine and dandy, but inside, every year, year after year, there is that, that feeling of standing stock still as the water flows all around you and beyond your grasp.