Monday, December 10, 2012

Was at it again....

yep, yep.  I was at it again.  ahhh.. the quilling, I mean.

Today is Anita's birthday. I have written about her many times in my blog before and truly consider her a blessing. 

Quilled this card for her, which took a little over 2 hours ( my timing has improved ).  I saw her eyes fill with happiness though she had a bunch of things going on in her mind.  She was in Chennai as her father was unwell and came visiting, not a great situation to be in. 

So, here is a peek into what I did for her on her birthday.
Close-up view of the card

The inside of the card with an extempore verse for her!!

The quilled card with pearl ensemble.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Does my Geisha look good?

While I may have to take the expert help of my blogger friend Ramesh in finding if this image is that of Japanese Geisha or a Chinese Geisha, I thought I will reveal to my dear blogging community the making of Geisha -  efforts I had put in completing my latest glass painting that I started sometime back in September. Though I completed the painting some time end October, my grandmom’s demise held me back in putting this up. I just couldn’t bring myself to put this up last month.

I am still grieving, the pain is better and has turned to something that I can handle. I should thank my Joe for listening to endless stories of Ammama, which I kept blabbering late into the nights and the poor soul was making a true effort to be awake and to listen to what I was saying inspite of arriving home late from work most days after his crazy schedules. What touched me the most was when he decided to abstain from eating non-vegetarian food for 41 days after her death, which normally children and grand children do. I went ahead and cooked fish which my mom-in-law loves, and when he saw me not eating that, and knew the reason, he quietly abstained from eating that and all other non-veg stuff.

My blogger friends, let me tell you the comments that you put up for comforting me, was truly helpful – I cannot tell you how many times, I would have read my post along with each of your comments – If I can handle my pain, your words had a good part to play. Gils, Ramesh, RS, Bins and Nancy, my gratitude to you all from the bottom of my heart.

I also had friends listening to me, calling me up and comforting me during this grieving period. There was this friend from Delhi, who called me all of a sudden one day and just asked me how I am doing. If I am okay – just that. (She rarely calls me) Sumai, I still hear the concern in that voice. How absolutely loving. There was another friend, who had so much to tell me about what was happening in his life, but chose to listen about Ammama patiently and only yesterday in my conversation I had figured out that. Many such calls and messages of comfort.
So, here is a quick preview of the step by step progress of the glass painting of a Geisha ( a traditional Japanese / Chinese entertainer) carrying flower pots.
Intial stages of the painting after the outlline and some layers of crystals



The earlier glass paintings I attempted used only paint and glass as medium, whereas now, I attempted the painting with crystals - the Geisha's dress is made of crystals and glass paint. Compared to my earlier paintings my timing has improved – was able to complete this much faster. ( thanks to my art teacher, Sujatha)

Close up view of the crystals

Just to prove - I really did the painting :-)

another view of the crystals

The final completed picture

I am trying my luck now with another form of painting - Keral Murals.  Oh yes, I will keep you all updated.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Did I really do that?

I walked into an art supplies store today to pick up some art supplies (obviously – what else can you pick up from there). Just realized that I needed something to enhance my spirits and I know art is something that truly can uplift my soul. That reminds me I need to put up a post on my completed glass painting as I had promised in the post here.

Since I dropped into the store after work and I was a wee bit delayed, I was, kind of  in a hurry to complete my purchases and get back home to my son. I had not planned for this trip in the morning and thought I should finish picking up the art stuff quickly. As usual the art supplies brought in the much needed excitement and even the names of colours that I was reading out from the list that I had, Prussian blue, Sap Green, Chinese white, Gaurboge hue was giving me the adrenalin rush and I was making multiple sales people get me stuff at the same time. Completely involved in the whole process.

Amidst my running around the store, I heard a childs laughter in the background. Crystal clear, sharp and quite focused. Remember I was busy, so I didn’t have the time to look at the child, I went about my business of choosing my stuff. Burnt Sienna, scarlet lake, Crimson my list was rolling … Happy with the progress, I was now hurrying up the sales people even more. Then I needed to choose my canvas and the measuring and cutting  was delaying me further.

Through the corner of my eye, I saw the father of the child carrying the little one and the little one was obviously happy at being in the store. The art supplies store also had some toys and they were asking for some specific type of Gun and in the background again I had the child squeeling about the toy he had asked for. The sales girl had just told them that specific toy was available.

I continued with my lists, was checking if I had all the supplies in place, circling the ones in my list, that the store asked me to come back later, and I heard the child say, again in the background – “ I also know to speak in English, wasn’t that English you all are speaking?” The child was saying this in the local language. I still didn’t look at the child.

Jus then the store owner walked in and started speaking in Malayalam and I wasn’t keen on wasting time, so I kept to my English and less of Malayalam so that my business will get over. The child spoke again – “But I do not know Malayalam” in a crisp voice. Now I really didn’t have the time it was getting delayed, my 15 minute business was taking more than 40 minutes.

So I was hurrying up the billing guy to finish up my billing. Just then the father muttered something to the child, while interacting with a salesgirl, and they both left the shop.

My billing was going on and one of the sales girls was telling the billing person “Did you notice that the child was blind in both the eyes”?

The world stopped around me for a moment. I hadn’t noticed. I was so involved in myself that I didn’t bother looking at a small child who was blind. The child was sounding so happy chattering away and here I was only bothered only about “ ME”. The sales girl continued “he is studying in the first standard and sounds so intelligent”

I could have spoken to the child, told an hello, shown some care to a little one who cannot see. I was so engrossed with myself and all the little messages of a simple child just didn’t touch me – they were so close, so clear, and yet I was deaf and mute to all that.

Somehow the laughter and voice of that little one continues to ring in my ears, reminding me of how I need to move the focus away from myself and take time to look around at what life has to offer :-(

Thursday, November 08, 2012

G.R.I.E.F

I realize grief is a damn intense, yet complicated emotion. I have always thought that crying is the epitome of my emotional outpour. Today I realize it’s the smaller pains that get soothed by tears. Grief in contrast is a stronger misery, a gnawing ache that just refuses to get past.

I knew I loved my Ammama, a lot. When I heard she passed away, there was this kind of numbness that descended on me – no tears, no pain, just disorientation. This news was expected – in fact, I have been praying for her easy passage out of this world. We all knew this was coming, though her last moments were almost out of a best seller novel / movie.

I have written about Ammama here and here. She was a well built, tall and strong woman both physically and emotionally, a rustic. The photograph of her here must have been taken 4 years back, at 90 then, almost all her hair was still black and she could read without glasses :-0. Her world was Chalakudy town, her house and the church. She toiled in the house as if there was no tomorrow or as if there was no end. She would listen to no one – she continued working till she was around 90. After my grandfather passed away in 1995, shortly after my marriage, she had the audacity to live in that century old house alone for more than a decade.

That was the house where she was the first born child – after her ( my grandmom's) marriage, she had moved out of the house to my grandfathers house. For lack of a male sibling in her family, when the property was divided, she had the boon of getting the house and the property adjacent to the house while her two sisters got a bigger share of land. My grandfather was nothing short of a Casanova, happy go lucky fellow, a stark contrast to my grand mom and his wayward ways lead them to sell all property on his name in Pudukad, and my moms family moved into my grandmom's Tharavad (ancestral home). So for a brief period, 20 years or so, in her 94 years she did not live in this house, otherwise, all her life, she lived in this house.

The house, a traditional tiled one with a Kalam ( used for drying & chaffing paddy when farming was done in a full fledged manner), Thozhuthu ( Cowshed), verandah’s on all sides of the house and a Kaiyala ( which houses the abode of the karnavar, head of the house – my grand dad had a separate room ), used to be spick and span– she knew every tile on the roof, every piece of wood, furniture, utensils and every nook and cranny of that house inside out. Every grain of sand in the property will call out her name and every tree there would have been nurtured by her.

In my childhood, I knew no holiday resort other than this house. Even today, there is no holiday that can come close to the time that we cousins have spent in that house – roaming around this house, playing I spy and other games, eating, fishing in the pond, climbing trees, swinging, tending to Mangu ( our buffalo), praying, watching rain and most of all being loved to the core. There was a peace that transcended on us while we were there along with a strong sense of security. We didn’t have a care in the world that would affect us when we were there.

Her typical day started at 4.30 am when she wakes up, makes her kattan kaapi ( black coffee), gets her kanji (gruel) ready and by 6.00 am, she is off to the church for the Daily Mass. There is a specific place where she keeps the keys ( on top of the main door – which all her children, grand children and Great children knew) and she would never miss her Daily mass for whatever reasons. She might not sleep the entire night if we were coming from Madras, ( we were her favourite Madrasile makkal, children from Madras) but she would have gone for Mass at 6.00 am. She knew her priorities.

After mass and breakfast she goes out into the property and her life started there – watering the plants ( we had a lovely garden), clearing the weeds from different patches of land, tending her vegetable gardens, coconut trees, planting new ones, making sure there are enough fruits and vegetables for her children’s rare visits – she was prepared to host her 6 children, 13 grand children and families any time. Evening prayers were at 6.30 pm and she was off to sleep by 7.30 pm. She read newspapers regularly but scarcely watched TV. This schedule goes topsy turvy when any of us go there – she made sure we were all fed well.

Looking back, we all went there multiple times in a year. We went there for weddings / baptisms / house warmings and other family get-to-gethers. We made sure our arrival, departure and night stay was at Chalakudi, with her, in the Tharavad. I earnestly had wished I could spend a week there at Potta, with her and not go anywhere else. Never happened. She waited without a whimper of a complaint and whenever we went there, she was over the moon. We continued to be mesmerized by the taste of her culinary skills as I had described here. She unfailingly made oulose podi and unda ( a very keralite snack and sweet which every malayalee will be familiar with) whenever Joe visited her, as she got to know Joe liked them.

Content with her life, she never noticed that she was becoming frail over a period of time, we could see that – that’s when her youngest son, my uncle in Chennai with great difficulty convinced her to move out to live with her Sons in Bangalore and Chennai. She did that so reluctantly.

I remember spending time with her whenever possible while she was in Chennai and she used to worry about no one taking care of the house – she used to be agonized over her coconuts being stolen and the house going to the termites. It was later we realized to our shock that we are losing her to Alzheimers. To a point that in her last days she could not recognize most of her children and grand children. My poem on her here describes that.

On 31st October, my dad called me and said that she is not keeping well and my uncle was planning to take her back to kerala. I started immediately at around 10.00 pm to visit her and spent time with her. She could not recognize me and it was as though her memory was stuck on two names – all men were Johnson and all women were Annie. She repeatedly called me Annie. She kept the index finger and thumb together like a mudra / yoga posture and every 2 minutes told people around her to put the imaginary rosary on her neck. I did that multiple times on Wednesday when I spent time with her – told her to sleep and kissed her good night before I left her that night. Like a baby, she said okay to me and slept.

The next day my mom and uncle were taking her back to her house in Potta, Chalakudi, the house she was born, like how my uncle had promised her when he brought her out of the house initially. On her way, in the train, she woke up in the morning, had her morning cuppa and 45 minutes before reaching home, she just simply left all of us, without a word, without a moan. This was on 2nd November, all souls day and everyone called her a blessed soul in the church fraternity. Blessed she is, I know.

It was as though someone had planned all this. The house was clean, surroundings cleared of weeds,  for her arrival and none of us knew the house was getting ready to bid farewell to its longest resident.

All of her children, and grandchildren were able to attend her funeral, barring the one in Germany and my sister who is going through her first trimester. All her 4 great grand children too had been there for her. My son is her first great grand child.

I stayed on that night with my family and my cousins, aunts and uncles together ( like old times) after funeral. I saw mirages of my grand mom around the house. I could not sleep a wink the night. The house was colder, number, and lacked tenderness that I had experienced all these 42 years. Nevertheless, like when I was a little child, whenever, I used to leave my grandparents house then after our summer vacations, we told our farewell ( we used to say Tata) to the furniture, walls, trees, even the window railings and everything that you can imagine in a child’s fantasy. I did that this time too, may be for the final time, went around without being noticed in a crowded house, I touched everything possible saying a silent bye to my beloved house, and everything in it, with a pain that was consuming me, gritting my teeth.

From now on, its not my grandparents place – for the most important people of the house are no more, they are just memories.
P.S:
I continue to be disoriented a bit, hence the long babble. Putting it down in an attempt to get it off my chest. Thank you for reading and sharing my grief.

Friday, November 02, 2012

One last time

Finally,
I had to make that trip
that I had dreaded all along
to my beloved ancestral home
One last time.

To see you
Sans smile, Sans warmth
Sans movement,
Sans that rare flash of memory
A lifeless body.

Rest in Peace, Ammama
In your new abode.

Yealikutty Augusty ( 1918 - 2012 )


P.S: My Mom's Mom, Ammama, passed away today, 2nd November 2012. Please do pray for her souls repose.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A sweet revenge

I am a proud mother of a teenager - There are moments of  Joy, happiness, fun, laughter, Pride along with ample moments of apprehensions and frustations.

Nancy from reflections mentioned aptly in a comment for a post, that Teenagers are given to us to test our mettle - how true!!

My teenager has developed this aversion to face a camera and ever since he turned a teenager, the moment I turn around to click his picture and at the nick of the moment he will show a poky face into the camera and  I have ended up with a good collection of them. If I am not taking his picture, he will spoil the frame by putting his hand and all I end up with is close up of his palm.  If he clicks his own pictures, he keeps such a serious face, with twisted eyebrows to show that he is a tough guy.

I tried to sweet talk him out of  practice, and employed multiple other tactics to get him out of this but it was all in vain.  Sometimes, he would listen so nicely to me, just to come up with yet another funny face when i look through my lens next time.  I had almost given up on him and as Nancy mentioned in her comment again, I just grin and bear it.

One of these days, Dennu came to me and said, Can i use facebook for sometime?  ( Its been a strict rule that he gets to use the net only under parental supervision ) :-)  Ten minutes into his break time, he nudges me and says, Ma do you have any pictures of mine to put up in my Facebook profile?

This was an god sent opportunity that I have been waiting for years.  I took him through the multiple folders that I had of his numerous pictures over a period of  some years, with all those funny expressions and he was flabbergasted at the array of his own expressions.  and I asked him which of these would you want to put up and he realised he didnt have much choices.

On top of that I added saying on your wedding day Denno,  I am going to put up all these pictures on a ppt and show it to all the freinds and relatives and your new bride about how you have tormented me thorugh your childhood and that will be my sweet revenge on you.  We had a hearty laugh about that together.

Much to my surprise the next time I took pictures ( I take pictures all the time, by the way) I saw my son behaving so well and facing the camera with his most handsome smile.  

Here is a picture of him doing something he loves with rapt attention.  he knew i was taking this picture, but chose to continue with it.

But I realised he has not forgotten his old habits, when I went on to click this picture later.


Whats life without some good humoured pranks?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Serendipity

Guess what my most often made trips are?  you will be surprised to know. Infact, I astonish myself most of the time taking these trips. 

Oh.. not the ones that any of you have guessed - they are my nasty guilt trips. ( a result of conjured up imaginations in my idle mind )

As a working mother I beat my consience to death most of the time with these guilt trips about how I have not been able to spend time with sonny boy when he was young and I fight these ghosts in my mind quite often.  I have never been home (unless i am sick, in which case, there is no point being home - I normally take off when I cannot even crawl out of my home for work)  when the little one came back - he lived his entire childhood school days in a creche' (thankfully we found a decent place near home).  And i silently whack myself in my thoughts  if his performance is not upto the mark or for that matter anything to do with him.

So, when he was in Std X, I took a whole 45 days off from work for his exams and spent time with him.  Not that he enjoyed it, but to me it was Manna from heaven.  So much time with him making sure he eats, not get  distracted, working with him on his study schedule and taking breaks along with him, pepping him up and trust me I knew the entire 10th grade study portions.  No I am not exaggerating.  I knew it so well actually I wanted to write the 10th grade exams again.

Sonny Boy though thinks otherwise.  He says I tortured him to the core, never allowing him to sleep or to be on his own. He once had the nerve to tell me, Mamma, the way you tortured me, I was thinking I should not write what i know in the exams so that i fail in one subject. ( just to teach me a lesson) 

Ahhh...  My Jaw dropped when i heard that and I was wondering if I overdid my part during his exams that he had to feel this way.. Thankfully no such thing happened and later once ( just once) he did mention vaguely that he got whatever marks he got because of me too.. :-0.  and also very meekly confessed to me that he studied only during those one and a half months.  That does not change his opinion on my torture though.. I am in complete awe of him that he managed to get 80 percentile in his exams just by studying during those one and a half months.

Anyway, Sonny boy has grown up a wee bit more now, responsible and with hubby dear strictly against me sitting with him for his studies, has been on his own in his 11th and 12th grade.  With a change in school, ( he calls his school a substation of central Jail) things are looking up. 

With the 12th grade final exams fast approaching, ( March 2013), surreal tension is mounting for me. Oh no my son is as cool as a cucumber, hubby dear tells me not to sweat  the small stuff - but to me, everytime I think about his final 12th grade exam a little storm builds up in my head.  there is a knot in the pit of my stomach, which I try not to show to anyone at all ( except to you all).

Last week, after adequate preparations to sound cool, I casually asked Sonny Boy,  By the way, Dennu, do you think Mamma has to take off from work for your final exams?  Do you think it will help? Fully hoping an over dramatised " No Mamma ...  Pleasseee dont....." .. coming from him.  I was a little taken aback by his unusual silence. He then told me, yeah ma, I think so.  It will help, so that I wont get distracted.  I wont need you to teach me or to work with my schedules, but just be around here".

I wanted to run to him give a huge bear hug and dance with him.  I did none of that - I hid my astonishment and told him "Yeah baby, I will check if I can work from home" as casually as possible, amazed at my ability to hide my emotions.  Inside I was jumping for joy and  did a 100 sommersaults and felt like I atoned my purpose in life.

This is what I call Serendipity folks.  Do you agree?

Friday, October 05, 2012

Letting go!

I look at the vanishing moon
Amidst all the stars
In the night sky sprayed with them
And am reminded of our friendship

Do you realize it hurts
To remember there was a world
That was just ours
The conversations, fun, pranks and laughter

I know you are moving away
Slowly yet steadily
Intuitively I realise
I am allowing it to happen

Its not easy for me
To let go of you, my friend
You have given me so many memories
To cherish. But yet

I will continue to let the drift happen
Cos if you do not belong to me
Its better to let go
Than to pin you down.

Just want only the best for you
to be happy wherever you are
And if you really belonged to my world
I know you would be back.

Vincy Joseph

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Art Attack

I get this periodic pangs of art attack and I indulge myself completely in it. The Quilling that I started earlier and described here, is one such example. I still cannot pinpoint a single reason for these sporadic afflictions, but that does not steal the felicity out of my attempts.

I am yet to figure out how I started glass painting. I had not gone for a class, not seen anyone do it, no I did not watch “You tube” either. I honestly do not remember what inspired me to pick up the material for Glass painting but I just did it. I only remember it was 10 X 10 inches glass and I was impressed with myself when the painting was done. I wanted to frame it and gave it to a person whom I knew did the job.

He took a unprecedented time for a simple framing and when I was losing my cool, more so because of the anxiety to see the final framed painting, he apologized saying that he had framed it in his workshop which was also running a glass painting exhibition of his daughter, and someone bought it for 2000 INR. I didn’t know if I had to feel good or otherwise. He offered me the money and I somehow could not accept it – this was around 8 years back. I couldun’t sell something that I did passionately. That fellow felt so guilty especially when I refused to take  money he gave me two of his daughters' glass paintings, which I still have.

J laughed at me saying “ how in the world do you believe all these stories that others tell you? “. His theory was this, he has either lost it or broken it and knows I would blow my top off if he says so, and hence he gave me this reason. He made you feel so good with this reason, that you even refused the money he offered. Anyway that painting wouldn’t sell for that kind of money. and ended that statement with a sarcastic  HA HA HA. Till date he stands by this theory. Maybe he is right. But wait he might be wrong too.

The Painter and the Painting - Circa 2005
I didn’t lose heart and proceeded to complete this one on the right. I did it on my own – no tutor / no tutorial. A critical hubby is my only proof. This was in the year 2005.

I do remember this though about the painting. I was completely stressed out doing my part time MBA and had a hectic job ( in which I had to learn, innovate, be creative and also travel) and with hubby in Manila for almost one semester and had to manage home and the studies of a Vth grade dynamite.

I started this after my, I guess 3rd semester exam. The painting took atrociously long time and I got totally passionate and involved in the painting, the satisfaction of which acted as a great stress buster. I remember doing this late into the nights after sonny boy slept and had to hide this from him lest he may spoil it. (this takes some time to dry)

The next one was this.

And was done after I completed my final exams and project of my MBA. It was cathartic to say the least – Kind of transition from all that maddening schedules and studies into a different world. I should say, finally all my hard work paid off both with my studies and my painitng. I didn’t dream that I would be the class topper let alone an university Gold Medalist in my MBA.

Both these paintings  had a very prominent place in our earlier home though they are carefully packed and stacked away in our apartment now. Didn’t want to drill holes into immaculate walls of our rented apartment.

Ahhhh.. Just got carried away with my past. I have joined an art class now and I started with a glass painting that includes crystal art. And you know what, it pays to have a Guru. :-) My art teacher taught me a couple of tricks that helped me to complete the outline that I earlier took around 5 to 6 hours in just say one and a half hours.

I am all excited and am waiting for the next class already. I wanted to tell you, all about this when my painting was done, but I could not hold on till then.. :-)  Silly me.

Friday, September 14, 2012

From the backyards of memory !!

Every now and then life throws everyone these jolts that makes you sit up and take notice of yourself, people around you ,the environment, the past and probably the future. These jolts come in the form of pleasant stuff and there are times when it is not so pleasant.

The last week I had a mail out of the blue, I didn’t recognize the mail id, it was quite cryptic starting with a SEG, which didn’t make sense at all. I was in half a mind to delete thinking it was spam, but reasoning prevailed, guess my intuition perked up and I opened it.

Surprise is an understatement here – I should term it Delight or may be even Ecstasy. My school mate and a dear friend had sent that mail and I wasn’t ready for the pleasant surprise.

A year back I had written about Networking sites and their small mercies in life and how I found this really long lost school friend here . I remember her asking me, “ Vincy do you remember how you used to hide birthday cards in my school bag a day before my birthday? And I used to wait to reach home to search my bag for your card” :-) funny I used to do that, why I wonder - I could have given it to her on her brithday...Yeah I did remember that when she nudged my memory.

I opened the mail and scanned the contents to be taken to the backyards of my memory.

It all started with quivering lips. I blinked hard to stop the wetness escaping and before I realized I was at it again – getting teary eyed. ( I am a world class crier and I seem to be one person who can cry at the drop of an hat. I am much better these days and thankfully do most of the crying in private. Its very cathartic.)

Let me tell what was in there – ML, my friend had scanned a hand made birthday card that I had given her when we were in high school. That’s around 29 years back :-)

I cannot imagine that she had preserved the card for close to 3 decades, a simple birthday card I had made, but definitely with the innocence and love of a teenager for her best friend then, – she stayed in hostels, moved multiple times, travelled, married and inspite of all this she had it and I hadn’t known.

To know one is loved  and valued this much, is a mammoth blessing. Moments like these pales everything else in life into insignificance, temporarily atleast. Humbled and speechless.

Here is the yellowing card, defying its age and let me stop before I get any more emotional. :-)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Stirring up Memories - Sept 8th

The Catholics across the world would know the specialty of 8th of September. It is the birthday of Mother Mary and I am a staunch believer of Mother Mary and that’s not the only reason for this day being special for me.

18 years back when my father was all anxious and making sure that his daughter gets married off to a Prince Charming who matches all his conditions, ( Yep, my father had a huge list of conditions, which could be fodder for a separate blog post in itself), a distant relative came with a proposal that kind of evoked some interest in my dad. Mine was an arranged marriage and friends who knew me then, swore on my Dad, that I will never get married looking at his conditions.

Well, my father managed to get me married and was successful in finding a guy who matched 80% of his expectations. Poor Joe, well poor me too – We are victims of my dad’s scheming or so we contend :(

Digressing from the topic that I begin to write has become more of a habit – Don’t be surprised, I am a proud Gemini. So back to the topic.

So it was on this fateful day 18 years back, Joe and I set our eyes on each other at a common friend’s wedding.

Ahh now don’t come to any conclusions – I guess Cupids missed their focus at the moment we saw each other so no arrow hit any of us, both of us never had any inner voice telling us “ This person will be your eternal foe”, I guess our intuitions went on a vacation that day ( probably together that’s why we were married), no seventh sense telling us, we would be man and wife.. no ESPs, no choirs giving a background score .. absolutely nothing.

I remember looking at the bachelor Joe and thinking .. hmm he looks a little fat( ofcourse he was, he was a good 20.5 kgs heavier than me!) but looks good.. that’s it. The relative who laboriously planned this meeting came to me and said, Vincy, that’s the boy have a good look at him. I remember replying with my nose up in the air, Ask him to take a good look at me. After our marriage Joe tells me he gave almost the same reply to my relative when told to take a good look at the girl.

Two utterly egoistic adults, perfect ingredients for an recipe to make an explosive marriage. After all the customary nuances of an quintessential arranged marriage we were married on Martyrs Day. Irony all along. We are still deciding who the martyr is amongst us :-)

We have had our fair share of battles ( oh what is a marriage without that), our ego trips (big time) and temper tantrums, but somewhere down the line, we fell for each other ( not the head over heels kind, but still the falling happened luckily in the initial days itself). We are not a “ romantic “ couple, we are very practical, but at the end of the day bury our little differences to make sure we give our son a happy family. We still fight tooth and nail, hold our differences of opinion, try ignoring each other ( never works more than some hours), but these last very short periods in time as years go by. We now have more grey matter outside our heads and guess wisdom prevails.

We are not the type to call each other every now and then, but I cannot focus when I know he is driving long distances on work or otherwise. He does not read my blogs but I make sure that I read it out aloud for him, kind of thrust it on him, ( a few of them atleast) and I realized he loves it, when one night he brought me Dale Carnegie’s book and asked me to read it aloud.

I don’t think we adore each other ( or do we?), all I know is this - In the simple chores that we do in our everyday life, Love blossoms every now and then and I guess that keeps our marriage going. We both have come a long way from our egoistic adulthoods, and I cannot think of a life without him.

So you see, it was on this day, September 8th 1994, I met my “Hero” and yes it is special :) :)

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

A meticulous CON job

Oh no ! this is not a tutorial in a conning lesson or a 101 session on how to get conned.

Without spending time on a prelude, let me go ahead and tell you what I intend sharing.

We live close to the asia’s largest perishable goods market, Koyambedu, and thats a place we haunt occasionally on some weekends ( especially when we have the energy to walk and lug some weight around) for stocking up fresh veggies and fruits at home. With my son turning into a Vegetarian, that I have described here,  I have the responsibility of coming up with innovative ideas in veg preparations, to make sure he gets sufficeint nutrients that i feel he is missing by not eating non-veg food.

Hubby dear belongs to the energetic lot so I make sure I take an energy drink to keep up with his large striding leaps while walking.

So this was one of the weeks when I lost most of the energy in shopping for veggies and was not very energized to move on to the fruit market. Koyambedu is a large market which sprawls 100’s of acres and you really need a lot of energy to walk around the place and its definitely not the cleanest of places for a pleasant walk. However, since we were already there, thought of quickly picking up the fruits and I went to the first vendor who was at the entrance of the fruit market. The apples looked really good, and I had the luxury of choosing bright Red juicy apples and the vendor weighed them and put them in a black polythene cover and handed them over to me.

I imagined how those apples will contrast my new beige coloured table cloth that I had newly purchased and made a mental note of putting the apples in the oval brown wicker fruit basket in the centre of the table.

Picked some more stuff from the fruit market and landed home.

I get energized when I have to organize stuff ( wherever it is). Most of my friends have called me to come over to their homes to organize their wardrobes and cupboards after they saw mine. I remember how I used to organize Anita’s (my friend at the earlier org) desk at workplace whenever I went to her desk. I am working on my commissions for the activities :-) after which I plan to market my services to these people.

Organizing fruits is the easiest (very few gets into the fridge) and putting away the veggies takes a longer time and hence finished the veggeis first, all the while imagining how good those red apples are going to look on my new table cloth in a wicker basket. ( Silly me)
So finally I opened the black polythene cover and Lo and Behold, I see pale yellowish apples quite ugly looking and definitely not the ones I picked up . If I had picked up first quality apples this was like some third or fourth quality apples. I didn’t even want to put them on the table.

I was fuming that this guy cheated me in the broad daylight and I was wondering how this fellow managed to cheat me having seen him putting the apples in the black polythene cover and handing the very same cover to me. I did unleash my fury over this to my hubby dear who was equally surprised at the colour change of the apples, but I guess he left it at that. This was going on in my head and I was determined to figure out how this conning job worked.

I must have cribbed to him many times and Joe kind of sensed my purpose and tried distracting me by doing all the shopping himself for a couple of weeks in supermarkets around his workplace. So, I had to wait till I got back to Koyambedu a while later.  This time ( actually I wanted to go to the fruit market first but hubby dear gave me a look that would melt adamantium and so I tagged along with him to the veggie market ) so after all that veggie haul I stood there watching carefully how this conning drama unfolded.

Most of the vendors there blatantly follow this ritual of conning and I am sure many like me are victims to this act.

This is what they do. There are prepacked, neatly knotted (obviously with the low quality stuff) black coloured polythene covers that are kept down near the feet of the vendor and the vendor is sitting down in front of a small raised platform. When a customer comes in they are allowed to pick up the fruits they would the to buy and he carefully packs it in a black polythene cover and ties a skillfull knot and keeps it on his /her lap in the pretext of collecting money. He then takes money from the customer and instead of picking the polythene cover on the lap, (that is packed with the customers choice of fruits), he picks the prepacked cover quite naturally, that is quite close to his lap ( and cleverly hidden from the customer who is choosing the fruits). I was standing behind the vendor with hubby dear and was watching this. So I unraveled the mystery, and my blood was boiling. I wanted to alert that customer who just then picked it up and create a hue and cry and Joe literally dragged me out of that place saying that everyone there will gang up against us and we will be no match for their language or behavior.

Had to leave the place without fruits for the week and had to listen to Joe’s sermon on how I cannot afford to get impulsive in such situations.

I will never pick up anything from a vendor without cross checking if I really have what I have picked ( atleast in Koyambedu) If at all I get to go back there.

Conned but a good lesson learnt.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A tribute to my Love!

This week ( 20th to 26th of August) is celeberated as Madras Week and every news daily worth its salt ( in Chennai) is writing about it elaborately through multiple columns and initiatives. Every time I read a small tidbit or an article about Chennai, my heart swells with pride. Can you imagine my joy when all these imminent people who rave about this city are going gaga over My city, My Chennai.

I can be called a migrant of Chennai, but I have embraced her with a love that I have reserved only for this city. My Parents hail from the district that is called the cultural capital of Gods own Country and my Dad came here half a century back for a job that he was committed to, and when he got married they made Chennai their home. My mom was taken to her parents place when she was heavily pregnant with me, ( the first childbirth happens at maternal place, traditionally) and so I was technically born in Kerala. I stayed on there for 8 months or so and landed in Chennai as an infant – I guess I fell in love with Chennai even back then ( Awww you know I am making that up !)

As a child my parents dutifully took us ( me and my siblings) to Kerala to spend our complete 2 months summer vacation every year in both my Parents’ ancestral homes and the strong ties I developed with my extended families of aunts, uncles and cousins can be credited to that. Kerala is yet again another scenic place with greenery and beauty all around, its truly as though God tried his hand at art work out there.

I remember my cousins jokingly remark that the Pandi’s have arrived, when we reach Kerala, probably the first of the racist comments I have heard in my life. I was young and Naïve then and I used join them in the laughter and fun poked at us. Paandi is a derogatory term used to refer the people of Tamilnadu, guess it comes from the Pandiyaas who ruled over Tamilnadu way back. And most of the Tamils in Kerala then were into Manual cheap labour, I guess that’s the reason for sarcasm. ( For those who are not familiar with Chennai, It is the capital of Tamilnadu, one the 31 states in India, and is in the southern tip of Indian peninsula and earlier called as Madras). Today none of them would dare say that to me, ( let me also add here that I have a wonderful set of cousins we are a close knit lot and are regularly in touch with each other, though we are in different parts of the world today) I would defend Chennai and the so called Paandi’s tooth and nail with anyone who would even dare to utter that today. That’s a different story altogether. But end of two months summer vacation and I wanted to be back in Chennai.

There is an unwavering love for Chennai in me and which was brought to the fore, when I had to live out of Chennai the first time in my life for around 2 years in a gorgeous hill station with so serene surroundings, anyone else would have wanted to settle down there. My first job landed me in Yercaud, so different from Chennai in all aspects, but I had this perennial longing to get back to Chennai – inspite of all that Yercaud, a hill station had to offer. I enjoyed every moment there, but deep down I used to miss the PTC buses, Suburban trains, the autos, the malls ( back then it was Spencers, Fountain plaza, Cisons complex), the beaches, libraries, theatres, the restaurants, Mount Road, Central Station, Parrys corner, T nagar, Pondy bazaar, Cathedral road, filter coffee, Vandalur Zoo, the museum, Planetarium, ECR and can you imagine even the morbid Madras Bashai 

When people tell me you are a malayalee, but you speak such wonderful Thamizh without the accent of a Keralite, I feel so good. Yes, I speak Thamizh and not Tamil. I still have people who look at me and ask so you can speak Tamil? And I reply “Yeah, I can read, write and speak Thamizh”. I consider it a great language, and the only other reason I would attribute to my first mark in English and Second language ( that happens to be Thamizh) in my Twelfth grade at school is my Geminian flair for languages. A disclaimer here though My flair for languages I guess have dimmed over a period of time from those days, I see some wonderful blogs written by some great bloggers that wax eloquence and intelligence together that I wonder how people even tolerate my writing  I digress here, though.

I should tell you this – in 2003 I decided to improve my professional qualification and enrolled into a MBA programme offered by Madras University ( while I have done a certificate course from Harvard University and U21, I still take pride in my UG and PG degrees from Madras university ). It was a part-time MBA which means I had to put up with a grinding schedule. I worked till 5. 45 pm and had to get into my classes at 6.30 pm which went on till 9.30 pm and reached home only at 10.30 pm. The college that I enrolled held classes in Nungambakkam, my work place was Teynampet and I was at that time, residing close to Guindy. The ones who know Chennai will tell these three places are not quite close to each other. So travelling back home late at night was an everyday affair, and me being a studious one never missed a class unless it could not be avoided, the absence I mean. I NEVER was scared of this city in those three years while travelling late night and I still feel safe to travel alone even late nights here. Until recently, in my earlier job, where I had to travel quite a bit, I used to take a late night flight from various cities in India, and reach home well after midnight in a cab. Its as though I know the city well and she knows me in turn.

In my 42 years, ( yeah that’s my age folks) I would have missed living in Chennai for say approximately 5 years, and these 5 years life has taken me to very different places on the globe both in India ( I cant list the cities and towns I visited here, that’s a really long list, though I haven’t ventured much up North) and abroad ( this I can list out actually it’s just a few) Wilmington (US), New York, Washington DC, Paramatta in Sydney, Melbourne, Singapore and Malaysia – Folks its not as though I never stepped out of Chennai and am drooling over her. Oh I am amazed at the cleanliness and the ultra modern amenities and services that are non-existent in Chennai and I am mesmerized by these cities that I have been to, in the initial days of my stay there, but soon, I have this longing for the sights and sounds that is unique to Chennai. Certain smells of Chennai still repel me, but that’s not a deterrent for my love for her.

Be it the cruel sunshine of May, or the literally non-existent monsoons, or the havoc laden cyclones that’s a regular affair year after year, which comes with the single minded focus of hitting Chennai and loses steam when it comes closer to Chennai, probably charmed by Chennai and normally drifts off to our neighboring state, the sultriness and humidity with which you can make anyone sweat and make everyone look at you with disdain.. No, I still don’t complain about the weather – 42 years is no joke, you see. You get used to it obviously.

Chennai, Madras to be precise ( I still somehow cannot shed the angelical colonized version of its name) is the place that shaped me to what I am today, She has delighted me with her cuisine that is uniquely hers alone, she has embraced me like she has embraced millions of migrants, allowed me to hope, dream, grow and fly to wherever I wanted to but always have waited for me to return to her patiently, gave me the sense of freedom and yet immense safety, memories of a happy childhood, youth and now home for my son, who loves it as dearly as me.

This is the place where I learnt to read, write and speak, value human relationships, her culture taught me to treat people all the same and not based on colour, creed or religion and this place also gifted me a medley of long lasting friendships. This is where I have laughed, dreamed, loved, cried, hoped and prayed the most and also had colossal fun. This is the place where I took my baby steps in education, profession, marriage and family, in short LIFE. Chennai is a city with a soul of its own and it gave me Roots to grow and wings to fly.

Today you complete 373 years. I am reminded of Shakespeare’s lines “Age cannot wither her nor custom stale her infinite variety.. “

Happy Birthday Madras.. ooops you are now Chennai, from someone who has made this place her home and loves you with all her heart. :-)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Q for Quilling

I remember mentioning here, that I managed to start quilling which was pending for a long time in my ‘To do list”. My starting to quill is like water suddenly gushing out of a metro water pipe in Chennai. It will stop any time, without any notice. I think it is just a form of satiating my urge for busting accumulated stress. I might not eventually become a Quilled card expert. Until I fathom another fantasy, this may go on.

Why this new found attraction? I have no rhyme nor reason, but I believe there is a time and season for everything, and I made the best use of my time at the hospital for Quilling. And Quilling I did.

I started with two cards and worked on the base for both the cards at the hospital. I managed to complete one at the hospital (which was easier as I had a lot of uninterrupted time, with Sonny boy watching TV most of the time) the second one was more difficult as I had to make myself some time after I got back from work and took care of the domestic needs at home. There are times when I am glad hubby dear comes home late – these are few occasions.

While there are several special people in my life, including you readers, (the very effort that you bother to read my blog, makes you special and people like Ramesh, Gils, Jayanthy and Diana, you folks are simply splendid, you even leave me comments :-) :-)- Trust me, I feel honoured that you choose to stop by in the first place let alone comment,) since it is a near impossible task for a novice quiller like me, to create so many cards, I chose two friends.

My first card has to go to a special person, and I decided to send it to a friend whom I have known for precisely 22 years and someone who I can take for granted as much as my mom and dad. I don’t take my parents for granted these days, with their age catching up, but until Petula grows old I can continue taking her for granted. Her Birthday was on August 5th and she was overwhelmed to say the least, its been a long time since we exchanged cards, though we used to exchange a lot of cards while we were in our prime time of our youth read as pre-marriage days :-).  I still treasure every single card that she has sent me and that’s a big box of them. She probably has sent me the most cards, ever in my life

She messaged me saying that she proudly displayed the hand made quilled card that I had sent her to her family who gathered for the birthday party.

The next card from the first batch went to the person described here – a friend who is family again. She was coming from Singapore for a short holiday and I was meeting her on a weekend. The best I can give Anita is my time and love and I know she would value it – that was another 4 more hours. This time in bits and pieces, and starting from where I had left, (multiple times) actually took some extra time. No improvement on my time there, but I had tried two different styles in both the cards.

As expected Anita was happy, I saw it in her eyes and I had the pleasure of explaining about quilling to her entire family. Her family got to see the card even before she did.

And here are a couple of snapshots of the cards. This is my first ever handiwork on quilling, and I had spent around 4 hours on each of them. I am just a beginner you see. Realised this needs truck loads of patience, good lighting and the motivation for me was the faces of Petula and Anita. Every time my back ached, I ran out of patience their smiles ( to be specific, the loud guffaw of Petula and the shrieking giggles of Anita that came to my mind) kept me going.

Pardon my indulgence in showing off more than a couple of snapshots of the cards.



Post Script:

I was at Petula’s place this week for a brief while, and I saw the quilled card displayed on a small table along with her family photographs. The table is itself a show piece which had around 4 different family portraits and bang in the middle of them was my card, standing as proudly as the family portraits. I realized I have made no mistake in choosing my friends – they know my value as much as I know of theirs.

Friday, August 10, 2012

An ode to my Big Mamma

My mom’s mom, who is called Ammama by all the 13 grand children ( their spouses, wherever applicable) and 4 great grand children is a very important part of my life and is a central focus of my childhood memories.

She is 93 years old and lives with her son’s family. I dedicate this poem to her and her perseverance.

Holding on to your little finger
I have roamed around the ancestral home
I remember the strong hands, smell of soil,
the hugs, love, care, concern and
most of all the treats to my palate
with your simple yet amazing culinary abilities.

You gifted me my best childhood memories
of Joy, happiness, safety and warmth
in my truly nascent years
along with those countless happy
and carefree days of pure bliss
that’s an inseparable part of my Summer holidays.

You could understand my need, my worry
my happiness and all my myriad set of emotions
as a teenager, just from my voice and
you disciplined me in your old conservative ways.
Even when I rebelled against them
you loved me unconditionally.

When I grew up to my big day, my wedding,
you were there to bless me with the priceless
gift of your presence
never forgot to get back to me
to nurture me during my gestation
and for post natal care.

You embraced my better half
with a love that he had never experienced
making him part of your brood in no time.
When my son was growing up
you showered the same love,
you once smothered me with.

Today, I look into your eyes to draw a blank.
You do not recognize me, my voice.
I still hold your hands
I still talk to you,
silently cursing the demon Alzheimer’s
That is slowly but steadily devouring you

But then,

Just, once in a while,
I see a spark in your eyes
And I instinctively know for that split second
You know who I am
And I can go on for ages talking to you & waiting
for that one flash of a moment.

Love you Ammama, Loads and loads.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Be careful what you wish for

Have you heard this wise adage?

I have heard this too...  just that I wasnt really careful about what I was wishing for.

I have been wishing for a holiday for a really long time, you know the kind where there is a lot of lazing around, reading, a generally a laid back time where I can do things that I want to, without the hassle of domestic household activities.

I guess when we wish for something, we need to be really careful and work on the details or else we would end up with something that we totally dislike but in all probability would match the specifications of our wish.

Take my case for example.

Last Sunday began like any other sunday - but sonny had a little accident at home, and has fractured his 5th metacarpal.  Looked like a minor fracture, but that was not to be.  We had to admit Sonny boy at the hosptial and doctors advised that a POP ( plaster of paris) would render his right hand (yeah the fracture was in the right hand) motionless for the next 5 - 6 weeks and the results may not be predictable.  The other option is going for a surgery and fixing a Titanium plate on his 5th metacarpal, so that he can start writing in a weeks time. He being in the 12th grade does not tolerate 5 - 6 weeks of inactivity and after some deliberations hubby and I reluctantly took up the latter option, though Sonny boy tried his best to persuade us into agreeing for a POP, not that he was worried about the surgery, he is a brave boy, but the POP will give him an option to skip writing for the next 5 - 6 weeks.

The surgery was scheduled for tuesday and with Gods grace it went on well.  So you see we are still at the hospital, and I am keying in this blogpost from the comfort of my attender bed.  oh yes, made sure that Sonny boy is fed, medicated, taken care of and has slept.

I have time to simply laze around, yeah I do have time to read, no house hold chores, the canteen in the hospital serves good food and kind of relaxed now that the surgery went off well.   So you get my point? about being careful of what you wish for.  All my specifications are met, except the objective.

Anyways, I see positivity in most of the situations and here is how I used this time to my advantage..

1.  I got a lot of uninterrupted time with Sonny boy - casually talking, bonding with him and for a change topics that are different from his studies, grades and school.

2.  When Sonny boy was sleeping, I had a lot of time to think about my life, where I have reached in life, my priorities and what next (so on and so forth - not that I have taken major decisions in life, but I had time to stop and think)

3.  Dennu, (sonny boy) is a sensitive teenager and unless prodded does not spill any beans.  He is also trying hard to reach up to the expectations of his parents of being independant young man - okay, why am I beating around the bush? Let me come to the point. He simply does not allow me to feed him food.  sounds funny yeah.. to me too.. it sounds funny.  But there are these maternal instincts that pop out without any warning and I do these stupid things like trying to give him food saying, Dennu taste this and out comes his hand and takes it from me, whereas I am actually using that as a pretext to feed him. He somehow does not like it and I think he takes over his father in that.  I remember my mom feeding me even after my marriage - I still would allow Mom to do that. To cut the long story short, Sonny boy after the surgery has a crepe bandage on the right hand and the drips are on the left hand, and has to be fed.  Can you imagine my Joy?  Sheer Bliss.  I have fed him 6 meals till now.. and thats after so many years. The joy is manifold when he calls me and says, Ma, I am hungry can you give me my lunch / dinner whatever.. The doctors have advised to stop the drips tomorrow, so he can use his left hand to eat, till then I will satisfy my maternal instincts.

4.  Been wanting to do quilling for a long time..  almost close to a year.  Never found the time, though I had picked up the quilling tool kit some time back.  This was the perfect time for quilling and I have an expert giving me his opinions on colour combos and the design etc.,  I have managed to complete the design of a card, the photograph of which I will post later.  ( a topic for another blogpost)

5. Also realised and I think, this is a great take away for me - How ever independant and healthy we all are, it just takes a moment's time for things to change.  Our lives are so fragile and our independance is actually hanging on a very thin thread of destiny and its absolutely not in our control no matter how talented or capable we are..  Not that I didnt know, but it is important to value people and relationships and enjoy and live the moment that we have got.

hmmm..

Now for something quite interesting during the last three days, remember the bonding and all the conversations that Sonny boy and I are having?  He was being wheeled into the Operation Theatre and he asks me, Mamma, can you tell the doc, to fix the Titanium plate in such way that when I want, the Titanium plate can come out just like how Wolverine can bring out his Adamantium claws - Mamma wide mouthed and almost faints.  This is after all his rehearsals on Monday about how he is going to tell all his friends about the extra bit of metal in his fist as soon as he is able to go to school.

He was actually a little disappointed with the size of the metal piece as seen in the post op X-rays :-)

That reminds me I need to tell  my Sonny boy " Be careful what you wish for"

Friday, July 27, 2012

Time waits for no one - Never in a Gazillion years

“Time flies” is a well worn, beaten to death cliché until each one of us experience it ourselves one fine morning, and then the intensity of this expression hits us. :-) I look back now and realize that its one full year since we moved out of our home in Chennai into an apartment (in another part of Chennai) and made this our home.

In 2007, when we moved into our own independent house ( yeah we can call it that it has a compound wall, we can feel mother earth in tiny patches and there is a terrace that we can call ours – ignoring the fact that if I extend arms from my terrace I can touch my neighbors parapet and the coconut trees in my neighbors house actually look like our own, if these silly stuff are discounted, its still an independent house for definition sakes), at least I never dreamt that I would move out of that place for a long time to come.

When we changed Sonny’s school, that he hates right now, it was difficult for him to travel to his school which was at least 15 kms away and the metro rail that is coming up en route was not helping in any way to reduce the travelling time. My son was moving into class Eleven and there needs to be so much focus into studies, we decided to put him in the current school and anyways it was just for 2 years until he completes his class XII. So hubby and I decided to make his life simpler so that he gives undivided attention to his studies (we realized that it was already difficult with the grinding he was getting at school) and we confirmed the move. Sonny was the unhappiest and felt sad about leaving his room. He says he still misses his room. He loved his room for whatever reasons, many of which I do not endorse. His room was on the first floor so he got a lot of undisturbed time, with me feeling lazy to go up to check on him for one. And many other such stuff.

Once the move was decided, we just took a week’s time,( to the surprise of our entire family - read the parents and other relatives) to find a house, get movers and packers and actually move. With all the stuff that we had accumulated in a large house for over 4 years we realized the kind of junk we can stockpile in a house without actually being aware of it. And we told ourselves, the moment Sonny finishes school we are going to be back to our own place. For one, our own house was planned in detail and so much of effort has gone into it, and two we were all sentimentally attached to it.

Now Dennu, that’s how we call our Sonny boy normally, from the new apartment, can cycle to his school in less than 15 minutes and imagine he does not have to go through any main roads. The apartment is a very nice place, quite spacious lot of facilities that we do not have in our own place, like a Swimming pool, basket ball court, a gym, play area for children etc., Being an apartment the cleaning /dusting /wiping and arranging bit is much easier – let me tell you I am a compulsive maniac at it, but it still is not our “own” place. You get the feeling?

So I was calculating today and I realized in another 9 – 10 months we got to move back. I am looking forward to it and I probably would be the first woman on earth who loves to shift. And I already have prepared a list of 32 (yeah just 32 alterations which will make us a few lakhs poorer, but what the heck) that we need to do before we get back to our “own” place. I have been dropping hints, messages to hubby dear about the changes I have in mind, but haven’t yet shown the list to him. You see I am the organized kind so I have an excel sheet that has the changes, approx cost and the total cost. Need to prepare him adequately before actually showing him the list. He will realize yet again sadly, that lessons in prudence over indulgence has not had an effect on me, even after 17 and a half years of sermons at home.

So today I was wondering about how soon time flies and before we realize, a year flies by, with a whole lot of changes in our lives.

Just a doubt though at this point in time. Does time fly faster when you are older? Oh no I am not OLD as in old. :-() just generally checking!