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 Na├»ve 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"