Why I am the Way I am

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One’s life is the most interesting piece of fiction one will ever encounter in his or her lifetime. For in life, as in a novel, or a short story, there will be numerous twists and turns, and you will never know when which twist will completely change the face of your life and the direction of your journey.

When I won my first story writing competition in, I think, my 5th grade, I used to tell everyone who asked, that I wanted to become a teacher. An English teacher, to be precise. I was in love with the language even then, and more importantly, I was completely awed by my English teachers. They way they spoke, their diction, made me completely besotted with the language. I spent hours after school scribbling poems on my rough notes. I participated in speech competitions, essay competitions and anything else that had the slightest inkling of English in it. Continue reading

The Small Things That Make Life Big

The child sitting next to me has his head bent over an iPad for the better part of the past hour. I cast a sideways glance at his screen now and then, to find a Doraemon cackling wildly or cars racing furiously, or angry birds having a go at each other. Not once does he look up to see the unfolding scenery outside the windows. The rushing trees, the setting sun, the lush meadows with a couple of cows, the children waving along the track, the trains whistling past in the opposite direction – all lost on this citizen of the digital world. At first I wonder, how easy it is to hand a tablet, phone or a laptop to a child and garner some peace for oneself – maybe I should get a Tab for my little one too. I turn to look at him. There he is, with his dad, asking unending questions – Why is that engine red? Where is that river going? Why are those children black? And for no reason, I remember this song out of nowhere -

Pachai kizhigal tholodu,

Pattu kuyilum madiyodu,

Bhoologam anandathin ellai,

Intha bhoomikku kanneer sondham illai.

Chinnanjiru koottukkulle sorgam irukku,

Ada chinna chinna anbil thane jeevan endrum irukku….

(Read on here to know the meaning of the song)

What’s the connection, do you still ask? The look of delight on the kid’s face when he sees the sky turning yellow to orange to black – can any video game ever replace that? I am immediately overwhelmed with a surge of gratitude. Gratitude for the small things in life that make life big. Here are some of the things, and people, I am thankful to, for both my son’s happiness and mine. No digital extravaganza, foreign travel or glittering stones can ever replace them.

A Small Plastic Phone

Green BB

It’s a Blackberry, no less, but a green one. Gifted to my son by a distant yet close to heart relative on our visit to their home. It would hardly be over Rs.50, but the grin my son had on his face when he opened the gift wrapper, was priceless (yes, it was, even if I sound like that old Citibank ad). My son now goes around all day, speaking into it, to his grandma, friends and even teachers. What the child on the train got from an expensive iPad, my son got from this small but more valuable piece of plastic.

My Husband’s Cooking

No, he is no Gordon Ramsay. Not even our own Sanjeev Kapoor. But the rasam he makes, I can die for. Especially during the days when my body refuses to leave the bed, or when my son is at his crankiest best. The feeling of relief when the cooking gets done without me having to sweat it out – what can I say? I know a lot of men that cook, but I also know an equal lot that don’t, and expect the wifey to serve them on a platter no matter how she feels. And when I think of such people, I thank God, for sending me the right man for me.

Weekly Chaat Outings

I confess, I love food. Spicy food. If you want to win me over, take me to a fast food joint. Let’s bond over a plate of panipuris. I love trying different restaurants and cuisines, but if you ask me what comes to my mind when I think of my favorite food, it is chaat. I could care no less for swanky restaurants, and just don’t get fine dining – what’s with those teeny weeny portions in the name of decorating food! Food ought to be enjoyed by the tongue, even if I admit it is nice to watch those foodie shows on Nat Geo People or Fox Life. But for me, any day, a chat wallah would score over a five star restaurant.

Panipuri

My First Library Membership

I still remember the small, cramped space that was filled from wall to wall, top to bottom, with books. My first love was Enid Blyton – the Famous Fives, the Secret Sevens, then the Nancy Drews, Hardy Boys, and so on. Not new gleaming covers, but hand me downs – torn here, dog-eared there. A Treasure Island whose pages were crumbling, passed over to me by my aunt, from my grandfather’s college days. Those were the first and the best books of my life.

The child beside me has moved over to his father’s smartphone, apparently tired of the iPad now, while my smartphone stays not so smart in the confines of my handbag. The sonny is still going strong with his questions, although my husband seems to be growing weary. I reach out to him and exchange places, to tackle the questions for a while while my husband gets his break, grateful for this precious time with our tender sapling, the shower of our attention on whom will help him grow into a stable individual.

 

This post was written for Project 365: We Post Daily. Today’s prompt was – The internet is full of rants. Help tip the balance: today, simply be thankful for something (or someone).

The Punch

“Yes, I am just leaving the office. Will drop in at Krishna Sweets on the way home and get the sweets… Alright, 1kg Mysore Pak.” I cut the call and start walking towards the bus stop. It feels different to be out on the road at this hour of the day, on a working day. It has been long since I left for home at 4 in the afternoon, probably never. Today, however, is a special occasion. I adjust my dupatta and tuck my hand bag firmly between my body and right hand as I reach the bus stop, getting ready for the adventure lying ahead of me. Getting into a 17D on a weekday is no mean task, even if it is not yet rush hour. The bus runs along one of the longest routes that MTC has, and is almost always more than fifty percent full. Having traveled on this route for over 2 years now, though, I am beginning to master the art of travelling on MTC buses without getting flustered by all the jostling.

The mood in which I reach home every evening depends on how my ride back home passes. Most days I do not get a place to sit. That is ok, given that I travel between Egmore and Kodambakkam, both amongst the busiest localities the bus passes through, and I have given up hoping for a seat. My ride is usually pleasant if I am able to attach myself to a pole near the ladies section of the bus, balancing myself on the pole by the shoulders and thus having my hands free to change radio stations on my phone. I don’t mind other passengers pressing upon me, as long as they are women. It becomes irksome when the bus is too full for me to find a place to stand near the seats, and I end up sandwiched between two passengers, hanging from the pole overhead. And in that, if one passenger is a male, then I am done for. I become so sensitive, that I lean more towards the female side of the sandwich, ignoring the lady’s grunts of disapproval. I can tolerate those, but not the grinding and the squeezing and feeling and what not, that happens behind me. A slightest touch of anything, has me twitching this way and that, and I cannot rest in peace until I have found a more comfortable position, maybe an all female sandwich.

The Punch_1

That however does not mean I am always successful in completing the bus ride without being violated. I have had my share of buttock squeezes, wet grindings (knowing something wrong is happening, but too afraid and disgusted to turn around and face the pimp), fingers grazing my thighs and trying to pry between them. Of late, however, I have been successful in avoiding such ‘incidents’ on most days.

I see the ordinary 17D, the one that halts at all the stops and is usually the rickety, old and ill kept cousin of the plush AC versions that have begun to ply, lazily rolling towards me, inclined on one side. Usually I would have waited for a deluxe bus at least to arrive, if not the AC version, but today I am in a hurry. Pushing away the thoughts of the misdemeanors of jobless and shameless men, I board the bus. Today it is very important that I retain my good mood. The boy coming to see me seems decent enough. Good salary, own house, and good looks apart, he sounded cordial and well mannered in the couple of messenger chats I had with him. If this match materializes, Appa and Amma will be so happy.

I find a comfortable pole and congratulate myself for it. As the bus speeds towards Nungambakkam, but elation slowly starts to turn into trepidation. It is school closing time, and loads of salwar uniform clad girls from the Nungambakkam Girls Higher Secondary School and the one in Valluvarkottam start filling up the bus. I cling tighter to the pole, hoping I would not have to relinquish my position for a younger and more vulnerable specimen from my species. My fears come true though, when a small girl, reaching just upto my shoulders, hair plaited and twisted into a U and held in place by white ribbons, with Kanakambaram flowers hanging from one side, starts showing signs of discomfort, and begins encroaching my space. I don’t have the heart to not give that girl space, and in a moment of weakness, find myself sandwiched to a man in his sixties behind me. It might still be ok, I hope. After all, he is my father’s age.

I am wrong. I soon feel something pressing hard on my buttocks, and grinding fervently. I feel him breathing fast, as though with excitement, and soon, a wide palm cups my buttocks and squeezes it hard. Thats it. Not today, of all days. I bring out my water bottle from the bag, and using the blunt end, punch him between the legs.

Ahhh” I hear him crying in agony behind me. “Enna achu ayya?” People around him inquire what happened, with concern. I smirk at ‘Ayya’, a word used in deference for wizened old men. I inch forward and park myself between two women, who readily accomodate me, guessing quietly what just transpired. I am trembling all over, and sweat buds have formed on my forehead. The girl to whom I relinquished my earlier position gives me her bottle to drink. There is a look of gratitude in her face. I empty her bottle in big gulps, yet, the dirty feeling refuses to go. Tears well up, and once again, I curse the God for making me a girl.

When I get down at Kodambakkam, my anger has subsided a bit, but the agony refuses to go. I discreetly move my hand over the suit over the buttocks to find a wet patch there. I immediately want to puke.

At home everyone is busy with the arrangements. I go quietly into my room and slip into the bathroom. There I stand for more than 15 minutes, splashing huge mugs of water on my face and scrubbing and scrubbing my body till the skin becomes red. Only when Amma comes and knocks the door the second time, do I reach for the towel and wipe myself. Soon I am draped in a saree, my favorite from Amma’s Kanjeevaram collection. That cheers me up a bit, and when Pawan brings me a small cricket ball sized roll of jasmine strand, my mood changes for the better. I start to smile again, and my mother’s face shows a sense of relief. Soon everything is set, and everyone is waiting for the bridegroom party to arrive.

The Punch_2

I sit inside my room, waiting to get called for, so that I can take the tray of sojji and bajji from the kitchen and serve the visitors. And in that process, steal a glance at the man I am being paired with. Yet, strains of conversation waft in through the half opened door. “We are a very orthodox family,” an authoritative female voice is saying, presumably my future mother in law. “My husband does Sandhya Vandanam three times a day, and never misses the daily pooja. We never touch anything in the kitchen without taking bath. Your daughter knows about all the acharam anushtanam, no? We don’t allow our women to wear jeans or other western clothes. Only salwar kameez is ok…” I quell the sinking feeling inside me with the thought that anyway I will fly away with my future husband to the US, where he lives and works.

Soon, my turn comes. Pawan hands me the tray of sweets and savories, and I slowly walk towards the people sitting in the drawing room, with my eyes firmly on the ground, as instructed by my mother. I serve the plates one by one, not once looking up at anyone else. When I come to the boy, I ever so slightly lift my eyes to see his face. He gives me a small smile, and blood rushes into my cheeks. Handing the now empty tray to Pawan, I bend down to prostate in front of everyone, again, as Amma told. But, suddenly there is a commotion. The man supposed to be my father-in-law seems to be choking. My Appa converges on him and asks him to drink water, and inquires anxiously whether he should call a doctor. It is only then I see the man’s face, and in an instant, I know what made him choke.

As my would-be father-in-law returns back to normal, I address him in my sweetest voice, “Mama, are you ok now? Was the punch so hard?”

 

By yamini Vijendran Posted in Musings

The Window Seat

I look out of the wide Shatabdi window at the trees and fields running away from me. This is the first time I have been able to take in the scenery, ever since I boarded the train a couple of hours ago. Now that the sonny is serenely asleep in the seat beside me, I am free. For a little while, till he wakes up again. I look at the adjacent row of seats, where my husband tries to sleep, sandwiched between two other men. It would have been so good if we had gotten that row, with three seats, so we could sit together as a family. In fact, two of those seats are ours, but the third one was occupied by a man who, when we requested, refused to give up his seat and exchange it with us. He clung to his window seat, as a child, my son’s age would. Continue reading

A Blogger’s Success

Year 2030

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The alarm clock in my mom’s phone goes off as it always does – at exactly 5 in the morning. She sets it in the hope that I will wake up along with her, but I only pull my sheets closer and try to continue my dream, as always. And again, as always, she doesn’t force me to get out of the bed. At least, not until 7, when she starts her sing song “Utho beta, its time to go to college…”. Almost like a cuckoo clock, where the cuckoo sings in a human voice. I sit on my bed, rubbing my eyes, trying to figure out what day it is and what is lined up for me today. And then I remember.

Yesterday night I chanced upon something I never knew existed. My mother’s blog. Well, I know she is a writer, having written some three books, of which two are said to be bestsellers. Said to be, yes, for I don’t know if they really are since I have not read any of them. No, not because they are written by Amma. I have nothing against her, and in fact I am proud that she has written those books. But I have never been much of a reader. I can hardly manage to flip through my course materials, reading for pleasure or hobby is a far off objective. Sports, adventure, games – they are my forte. Books, umm, uhh

Sitting in the Bullet train that will take me to my college, I turn on my Google glasses and bring up the long forgotten blog. There are entries from 2013 till 2020. Around the time I was a toddler. It is as if my birth brought about a spurt of creativity in her, because before 2010, the entries are very sparse, and between 2013 and 2016, there has been a huge upsurge in the activities. My eyes wander off to a section names Amma’s corner. Under that section, I find a number of posts, titles suggesting that they are all somehow related to me. I start reading them.

It is all there in those posts. What I did when I was so small, how my mother coped with parenting, the good times she had with me as a baby, her joys, her concerns, her anxiety, her rants, her aspirations. The posts, both on the Amma’s corner section and the others, bring about a different persona of Amma. I have always seen her as the fun lady who has stood by me no matter what. High on energy, but also highly sensitive. Sometimes unreasonably, sometimes silly, but my best friend. It is a revelation to read her thoughts from over a decade ago. She had moved on to a new blog sometime around 2022, and that blog contained posts only revolving about her ‘author’ persona. There were no more personal posts in the new blog.

The girl sitting next to me nudges me to point that we were at the last stop. I jump up with a start. I was supposed to have got down at the previous stop. I thank her as she is leaving, and put my glasses inside the satchel, before walking towards the platform where trains going in opposite directions will arrive. I wait for the next train to take me back to my college, feeling closer to my mother today that any other day. I want to rush to her and tell her, “I love you, ma“. When the next train arrives, I do just that, going all the way back home. She is surprised to see me back soon, even more to see the effulgence of emotions from a usually stoic person. I tell her about my discovery, and she is delighted to know that I read her writing. She has tears in her eyes, when I talk about the mommy posts. Wiping them, she tells me, “People used to comment on some of my posts and compliment me. I always thought the yardstick to measure the success of my blog was the number of people commenting and liking it. But today I know, what others say or don’t say, doesn’t matter. The very fact that you read them, and liked them, that my writing helped you understand the things that your father and me did, and has brought you closer to us, is enough. That is the biggest success my writing can achieve.”

I smother her in a big bear hug, putting my chin over her head to hide the tears of joy that are escaping my eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

This post was written for the following open prompt from Project 365 – We Post Daily - 

openprompt_25thaugust2014

 

 

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A Review of Meghna by Sundari Venkataraman

Meghna by Sundari Venkataraman

meghna
 
 
 
The Blurb
     The young and dashing Rahul Sinha lives in England with his parents, Shyam and Rajni. He is an only son of the rich banker. Rahul is totally attached to his father but does not care for his mother. Read the book to find out why…. 
     Rahul is exulted with his efforts at work paying off and plans a holiday with his best friend Sanjay Srivastav who lives in Mumbai with his wife Reema, kids Sanya and Rehaan and most importantly, his sister, Meghna. Rahul recalls meeting Meghna just before they parted six years ago. 
     Meghna works for a website and also teaches modern dance as she loves it. She’s thrown for a toss when Rahul comes visiting. She had thought he had forgotten them. 

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