Tuesday, 12 February, 2013

Your classroom is here.

It was an article about three websites that compelled me to put down my thoughts now. Three websites which are now revolutionizing education in ways never before imagined - Coursera, Udacity and edX. Three revolutionary websites which provide online courses to students all over the world, taken by professors of the world's most renowned universities, on subjects ranging from astronomy, biology and chemistry to business, law and medicine. And this is not even the best part. This incredible wealth of knowledge is, my friends, free of cost to everyone.

It is absolutely incredible - the amount of information and knowledge that you can access now with your fingertips. Never before in the history of mankind has universal equality, in the truest sense of the word, been  accomplished. Think about it. Each and every one of us, equipped with an electronic device - a desktop, a laptop, a tablet or a smartphone - and a working internet connection, can get any question answered on any topic; whenever you want to. The truly remarkable consequence of the internet is thus, to me, intellectual equality. Barring the blocks and firewalls in a few countries (that is a completely different debate altogether), anyone anywhere in the world can learn about anything on the web. 

The earlier disadvantages of geographical limitations and economic disadvantages have all but disappeared, or are disappearing in due course. Imagine being in the world about two decades ago. You are researching a simple problem. Trying to understand an industry, let's say. What would have been your sources of information? Visits to physical libraries, scouting through numerous books and publications, trying to figure out  an expert on the industry and primary research. How about now? With a few clicks, in a matter of hours or rather minutes, you can possibly learn about any industry that exists in the world (non existing as well, perhaps). Of course accessibility, awareness, affordability are all still issues. But the extent of those issues are mere specks compared to the mammoth proportions of information barricades which existed before the world wide web. Take a bow, Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau.

Everyday I find my innate curiosity jumping up and down with excitement at the sheer variety of the subjects I can get my hands on. Right now I am enrolled in Game theory (Coursera), The Modern World: Global history since 1760 (Coursera) and How to build a startup (Udacity). Courses taken by distinguished faculties from Stanford university, University of Virginia, MIT and serial entrepreneur Steve Blank. My personal favourite among all the astonishing knowledge banks on the web remains khanacademy though. Not because Salman has Indian roots (though I am incredibly proud of this fact) but because of the simple and lucid manner in which he handles topics as simple as basic arithmetic to complex financial conundrums like CDOs or the fiscal cliff. And he is not a teacher by profession.  Education, my dears, will never be the same again. Cheers.

Monday, 30 January, 2012

Tea for two and a piece of cake.


It took one eventful year and Preeti Shenoy's new post to push me back into scribbling. I say scribbling purposely. Sabbaticals that last an year doesn't really qualify as writing. Anyhow, her post Tea for Two.. is doing its job well as a creative prompt, I must say. There you go Preeti, Voila!

So, Preeti is publishing her third book - Tea for Two and a piece of cake - which promises to be just the kind of book I would love to cuddle up on my beanbag with a cuppa on a rainy afternoon..
My friends and I have been readers of her blog for ages. Lucid, down to earth and endearing, her writing was one of the reasons why I started a blog in the first place! Her prompt now is for anyone to complete in their blog "If I could invite anybody for 'tea for two' today it would undoubtedly be .................................."

Hmmm.. A lot of choices rush into my mind. Amongst friends, siblings, relatives, idols and so on, in the end the one person I know I would want to invite for a tea for two would be - my husband. Ok technically, I don't need to invite him per se, but of course, he is the one person I would share my cup of tea with and not to forget the cake, all my life. I admit I have not really mastered the perfect cup of pure milk tea he prefers. Yet he drinks the tea I make everyday without the slightest frown. Coming to think of it, it is also symbolic of our relationship.. About two years ago we did not even know each other; but now after an arranged marriage and 8 months later, I know I have found my soulmate, my partner in crime, the kid who sees the kid in me, my best friend, my critic, my strength. This is to you, to us, to love. Cheers.

P.S: Thanks Preeti.. I wouldn't have written this for him if not for your post...! :)

Sunday, 16 January, 2011

Kerala Café.

Not in recent times have I seen such a touching and realistic portrayal of life in Malayalam movies. It has been at least a couple of years since Renjith's Kerala Café - the concoction of 10 different short movies by different directors - was released. I regret not seeing it before. An excellent brew of emotions, the twists reminding me of O'Henry classics, brilliant performances by some of the best actors in the industry - I am surprised at the kind of reception it received among the supposedly mature audiences of Kerala. The 10-story gem of a movie could just gross over its costs.

After a long day of infinite assignments, classes and work, I was deprived of sleep yesterday night. The best option next was either a sitcom or a movie. Whose Line Is It Anyway has been the recent routine. Somehow I stumbled upon Kerala Café in one of those long forgotten must see folders yesterday. I had read a few reviews so the idea was to see a couple of the short movies and hopefully go to sleep. But every single movie made me long to watch the next, and the next.

Two parallel stories with one moving slightly ahead, and in the end, reaching a tragical symbolic connect between the two, Bridge was easily the best. The first story of a motherless child being deprived of his pet kitten by his father. Another of an old mother taken by her son on a long awaited trip 'to see the ships in the city'; In the background is his poor family and the incessant nags of the wife about how she has been taking care of the old lady. At first the son taking his mother alone on a trip and the joyful moments they share brings a warmth in your heart. But the climax is so tragically unexpected that it is haunting me still.

Puramkazhchakal of Mammootty and Sreenivasan is another one I loved; And hated for the way it hurts you in the end. The extremely temperamental passenger played by Mammootty is mocked by everyone on a bus. But little do they, including Sreenivasan, realize the reason why he is rushing to his home, his dear ones.

Happy journey
is another gem which oddly reminded me of the bus journeys from Kochi to Bangalore. Set in a 4 hour bus journey, this one shows a middle aged man JK (Jagathy Sreekumar), trying to flirt with the girl in the next seat. Slowly during the course of the journey, her meek demeanor changes to that of a creepy determination and a fear grips him forcing him to see life in a new light. With a fitting climax this one was a treat to watch.

Island Express, which is a take on the old Peruman tragedy, has a new treatment and some very good performances by Prithviraj, Sukumari, Kani and Maniyanpilla Raju. The boldness in the portrayal of the life of Prithviraj and his friend is something unseen of in Malayalam movies. Lalitham Hiranmayam was a portrayal of infidelity and conflict in relationships and stood out for a strong performance by Jyotirmayi and Dhanya. I felt Suresh Gopi could have been used better though. On the same rating would stand Aviramam; showing Siddique who attempts suicide after sending his family for a vacation. Shwetha Menon has brilliantly portrayed the wife.

All the others - Makal, Mrityunjayam, Nostalgia and Off season - could have been way better. Given that Revathy was the director, Makal could have been much more gripping and lacked the depth one would expect from her. Mrityunjayam, being the horror story, to be honest, left me confused. Nostalgia was a tight slap on the Malayali hypocrisy and is successful in making one hate Johnykutty (Dileep); but it was definitely not worth the opening shot. The humorous take in the middle, Off Season, failed to strike a chord despite Siraj being the protagonist.

A few such shortcomings apart, this attempt by Renjith to bring together 10 of the best directors and most of the acting geniuses in the industry together, deserves a standing ovation. For me some of these stories were the best movies I have seen after the times of Padmarajan or Bharathan. I feel sad to say that I can point to no movie in recent times which can much up to the best of the lot in Kerala Cafe. Hope it changes. But for sure, Kerala Café is a must watch.


Saturday, 1 January, 2011

Déjà vu

That strange feeling of familiarity, that veiled recognition of what I am going to say, the reactions, the sequence. Premonition reversed? You could say that. It does not let you predict future. At least for me, the feeling is an afterthought; "I've been through this before." A fleeting remark; An obscure passage; A passing scene; At the most unexpected of times, in situations with the most improbable chances of repeating, that feeling of weird familiarity washes over. Weird? yes. Eerie? no.

I say Déjà vu is God's own way of rewinding our lives. :) Why, you may ask? Well, I believe he wants to give us a good second chance. Grab it. Live it again.

The sabbatical of El Misti hereby ends. And I get a Déjà vu. I hope this was its last. :)

Thursday, 30 April, 2009

Go Green!!

The days after my siblings’ annual exams were over. My Sis has completed her 7th and Bro, his 4th standard.

"Hello...”

"Heylo Jiyachuchy!!! Occasion, occasion!!"
[Well the etymology of this particular word, termed by my little sis, still looks very strange to me. Nevertheless, Occasion essentially means vacation, the summer hols.]

"So happy now, eh? How was the exam? Which one was it??"

"Malayalam. It was good! Yo yo!"

"So what plans sweetie?"

"I am starting Go Green."

"You are what?"

"Starting Go Green. You must join ok. Admission fee is Rs.2. Fine is Rs.10"

"Fine for what?"

"If you throw waste around, if you use non recyclable plastic bags, if you cut trees, if you stamp on grass..."

Background conversation to our housekeeper lady:
"chedathi, ini pipeile vellam leak cheythal patthu roopa fine vaangum ketto, go green!"
Translation: If you keep the pipe open and water leaks again, you will be fined for Rs.10.
I can only imagine chedathi's reaction: Gulp.

"Ok Ammu, What will you do with the fine?"

"With the fine? Oh, that we will collect.......

I'm so proud of my sister! How socially responsible today’s kids are....

...and divide among the other members!"

"What??? Aren’t you supposed to do something useful for the nature??"

"Then how will I get money for myself??"

Ok. Kids today are business oriented. Highly.

"Hmm Ok. So let’s see. Who all are the members yet?"

"Bro is already a member. njaan avanu nammude prasthanathe pattiyulla arivukal pakarnnu kodukkukayanu.

[Oops. Did she swallow a Malayalam dictionary?]

You are a member ok. You can be the vice president."

"No no Ammu, its ok. I'd rather be secretary. Make bro the VP."

"He doesn’t want to be VP. He just wants to be a dedicated worker."

Whoa!!!!! Are these my siblings themselves????? From the day both of them set eyes on each other, I have never seen such camaraderie.

"Great! So is mummy in??"

"You know what jiyachuchy!! Mummy is taking plastic bags to the shops every day!! I'll fine her ----- (an incomprehensible amount)!!"

"..........."

"And then, she is forcing us to eat chicken and fish!! (I don't like where this is heading to...)
Nammal bhakshikkan vendi konnodukkunnathu karanam ethrayethra mrigangalum pakshimrigaadikalumaanennoo lokathil ninnum illathayi kondirikkunnathu!!!!"

Gulp. Dumbstruck. Partly dazed by this onslaught of heavy Malayalam and partly by the glaring possibility of being a Vegetarian.

"Er.... Athe Ammu, does that mean we have to be pure vegetarians too?????"

"Well I am going to be one. Bro has informed that he can't be. So it's OK."

WHEW.

"So what is the Agenda? Are we not having some action plan?"

"Of course yes. First thing I am going to do is stick posters on the walls."

"Er.....Which walls?"

"Colony walls."

"........."

"And then I'll start a community in Orkut."

"That sounds good. Hmm.. But don't you think the posters idea might be too much...?”

"Why not??"

"Well, the owners of the walls MAY not agree you see."

"Oh.. !@#!@#@$"

"Hmm.. Never mind. We'll distribute fliers. I feel so proud of you Ammucha! So what should I do next??"

"You have to ask all your friends to join too. AND ask them to suggest a Malayalam name. Once they join, I will give them ID cards. Ok then Jiyachuchy, Go Green!!"

Cut.

Though I could not stop laughing that day, her enthu took me completely by surprise and I am still delighted.

So here we go.

Go Green!
Ammu aka my sister cordially invites you to join the Go Green
campaign by paying Rs.2 (Cheque/DD/Coin).
The manifesto is in the process of drafting and will be shared with you upon completion.
Interested members please contact the secretaries (yours truly) with suggestions of a malayalam name for the campaign.
GO GREEN!!

Monday, 2 March, 2009

"How dare he call one of us a slumdog??"

"How dare he call one of us a slumdog??"

"Oh! But the story....where is it from???"
"Who cares, the matter is not his to judge!"


"Why but it swept the Oscars and Globes!"
"Bah! those are just capital plays!!"


"You mean to say the film is to blame?"
"Hmm...Ofcourse yes! It throws all the bad cues."


"But many of our people were at the world's stage!"
"Thats because they went and honoured that stage!"


"Isn't it a pleasure to have our men honoured?"
"Right but those sadists; laughing at our plight!"


"You think they really keep thinking about us??"
"Oh yes always yes. We are the real focus."


"What if one of us, had made this one up?"
"Might all these crowns, to Button, have gone!"


"So what really got us the fame and fortune?"
"Packaged poverty, beggars and more!"


"Isn't it all about love, hope and resolve??"
"The slums!! they keep showing those slums to the world!!"


"Isn't it a real picture, what truly is?"
"Why can't they show some good realities??"


"Reality? Now when did that start to matter?"
"Oh always we need to focus on real life!"


"Why then no uproar over K series?"
"What who.. Oh I... hmm.. don't have no time!"


"Don't you think the marketing's really what matters?"
"But see he shouldn't have called one of us a slumdog!!!!"

Friday, 16 January, 2009

"Always look on the bright side of life"

Interesting name, isn't it? Well my first experience watching a play was so overwhelming that it is impossible for me not to write about it and so! Here I am, going to end my sabbatical.. ;)

My friend was so smitten by Evam's 'Five point someone' that every now and then we would 'plan' a great evening watching a play... And like all other great 'plans' of ours, it remained a 'plan'. Well, I suppose that's what plans are meant to be. ;)

Anyways, last week she sends us info about this new play by Evam, "Always look on the bright side of life". A few online searches and many interesting reviews later, 6 tickets were booked for the 14th of January, 2009. There, the first live professional play of our lives...! (Well, for most of us! :) )

The venue was RangaShankara, The troupe, Evam and on stage, a bunch of extremely talented actors and dancers.

Eventhough the play was due at 7.30, we reached the venue almost an hour and half early. One look at Rangashankara and boy, I was smitten. A great building, which is more of an artwork, welcomed us. Spiralling staircases, a beautifully laidback Cafe, an outlet of Sankar's and a vast hall exhibiting curios about the latest plays and their authors. My roomie was so inspired that she wanted to join the troupe then and there; And she could have been recruited for her 'historical drama histrionics' immediately, but they were not conducting any audtions. :( (Thank God! ;) )

Evam volunteers were everywhere - selling the Muchos brand (A corporate gift idea venture by an Evamite), making us play dartboard and throwing loops! We didn't have anything much to do for about an hour obviously, so we played and I got a smiley ball!! :) (Well, i.e. after an extremely 'enthusiastic' elderly gentleman was done with the arrow and the loops.. :) )

Little did we know that most Bangaloreans knew the following fact:
If
Start of play : 7.30
then
Stand in queue by : 6.30!

Merrily playing, we did see some people forming a long queue...
"What a long queue, isn't it!"
"Oh! poor guys, they won't get any tickets now would they?"
"No no... Lucky we came early.. smart, aint we...?"
"Yeah, yeah... I wonder where the entrance to the theatre is..."
".....er......"
"Do you think......"
"Oh my! thats the queue for the entrance!!!!!!!!!!!"
"Oops..Come come..... Lets join them.. Thank god..! The queue is short.. Just round that corner....
and that.....!
and that....?!!
whaaaaat the????!!!"

It seemed the queue was endless. Even in a movie theatre I haven't seen a longer queue. Anyways, once we were allowed inside, we did get a good seat unlike what we expected and very soon the play started.

3 pretty girls danced to the tune of a foot tapping song and suddenly, the 'cultural police' comes in!
"Hey hey hey! what the bloody hell is going on here...?? !"
(That was the only line he chanted during the whole play.. ;) )

And then 3 mavericks entered the stage. (Now I know one is KK, the other Sunil and the third.. Dunno! :( ) They were the main actors throughout and I must say, extremely witty and talented. No wonder they were nominated for the MTV youth Icon awards.

They discussed at length about what to stage (I loved the Drrrrrrrooooona part) and finally settled on Monty Python. And true to it, the play was full of tiny snippets of wacky situations from everyday life...

The best one was the Pope ("Poppy.." :))) ) and the flowery Michelangelo with his Last supper featuring 28 disciples, Kangaroos, a circus and 3 Christs!! The ones about the forgotten German musician, the abuse and argument departments et al were extremely hilarious.

Some of them were a bit boring though; for instance, the ruthless Principal and the grieving parent, the Murder mystery... But on the whole we thoroughly enjoyed all of those 76 minutes.

As Evam quotes, it was one hell of a funny wacky crazy comedy! :)

Friday, 29 August, 2008

Tired of your Network?

CASE ONE

The other day, I saw a huge ad in front of a Mobile office (Lets call it Aircel)
STD at 75 paisa for first 400 minutes... National SMS free!

I hold a Vodafone connection.
STD and SMS at 1 rupee.
I read. I sigh. And I walk on.

CASE TWO

My friend tells me about this new offer which he can get me through his company connection... It will give me a 40% reduction in the bill. And free SMS!
I turn down the offer, again.

Why?

Why wouldn’t I grab these offers and change my connection to the best one, at once?

Because of the simple reason that I hate to go through that torment of changing my number, Informing my friends, relatives, colleagues, et al.. Wait a minute..! How will I inform my bank n other official services…??
Oh! Forget it!

Well… this will change. Soon.

Mobile number portability(MNP) will soon enter our circles. And the countdown has already started.


What is MNP?

Mobile Number Portability(MNP), simply put, means that even if you change your mobile service provider (Say from Airtel to IDEA or vice versa) your number would remain the same.

It is the newest in the tidal wave of mobile technology. There are other variants for changes like Mobile to Landline. But what we can expect soon, and obviously the most looked forward to, is the MNP.

Why?

There are myriad reasons why MNP should be here.

As I said before, you won't ever have to bother about changing your number. You see a new offer; this one better than your current one; buy it; plan changed. Simple. No hassles.

But behind this huge relief there are other significant repercussions which will affect our lives, or rather our Mobile lives. The simple possibility of losing the customers at once will push our Service providers to come up with new ideas, technologies and above all, lower rates.

And then, the mobile penetration rate in India would climb up rapidly. (If rates can go faster than it is now! :-)) Even though we feel every other guy, be it the street urchin or the local fruit vendor, owns a mob, mobiles in India seems to have reached only about a quarter of the population.

Where?

MNP is already an old story in countries like Singapore, US, UK, Australia, Pakistan etc. The best part of MNP is that you don't have to wait for days to get your plan changed. The waiting period varies from 5 hours in the US to an awesome 3 minutes in Australia!

How?

MNP needs an intermediate governing body to monitor the porting of service.
There can be two types of Porting. Donor led porting and Recipient led porting.

Suppose you want to change your connection from X to Y. In donor led porting, it is your current provider X, who will initiate the porting and complete the formalities.
This method of porting is used only in UK. But the disadvantage here is that provider X would definitely be vexed at losing their customers. So the process of porting may take a loooooooooong time.

Recipient led porting thus seems to be the better one. Recipient network Y initiates and completes the process.

After porting, the routing of calls can take place based on a number of implementations. But as of now, the most popular and efficient routing is via a Central Data Base(CDB) of ported numbers. Local copies of this CDB will be available to every service provider and they will consult this database to decide which network a number currently uses.

When?

"When shall MNP come to India?" has been a popular question since this technology came into being. The answer came very recently. Precisely, on the
2nd of August 2008. Our Telecom Minister A. Raja has declared that MNP will be rolled out in all the metros within 2 months and then to the whole of India in 6- 12 months.

A decade back, we wouldn't have even imagined "A phone for everyone".
Now we are not satisfied with the present goodies. As a popular mail says ' you have 15 numbers to reach your family of 3.' :-)

Technology simply gets better each day.

So, my dear mobile friends, its time to rejoice! :-)

*****12 May 2009*****

Update!!

A good news in fact... Hope it does not get delayed further than this.

Tuesday, 19 August, 2008

A Fork In The Road.

Turning back
On that distant road
All those times
Fetched far in time
Would I regret?
Or would I smile?
When time has flown
And my life is through....

The fork I’ll see,
The way I chose;
The lost way
Or gone astray?
Would I be glad?
Or would I cry?
I chose it right;
Or "Wish I had...”

Wishes and dreams
Pressing around...
But fulfill or give;
Mine or for mine;
Would I ever know?
Or is it right here?
When would I know?
Will it be too late?

Life and dreams
Are parting ways
Or blending in?
The view is hazed.
Amazing bloom
Or the barren doom
The moment I pass
This fork, will I see?

Here at that fork
I stand right now.
Flip a coin
Or blindly choose?
Would I be right?
Would I ever fret?
The help I seek
God, where shall I find..?

Thursday, 7 August, 2008

Work experience = 1 year.


Yesterday was my first anniversary of being a working professional.
1 year as a software engineer.

If you ask me whether I've evolved as a better person or not since I shed my student garb, I don't know what to say. Not much, but this single year alone has taught me how bittersweet life can be all at once, more than the preceding 21 years put together.

Work has not changed me as a person but this one year taught me priorities in life can suffer a mammoth shift. From being a careless, absent minded girl unsure of the future, suddenly I find myself searching for ways to secure a future; for my siblings, my Mom, myself.

Values haven't changed, even after living for an year in the Silicon Valley of India.

Finding new friends, for a lifetime....

Catching up with old mates....
The revelation how exciting waiting for a weekend can be...
Missing home....

Discovering what 'hectic' means...
Learning to meet deadlines...
Managing time...
Missing home...
Feeling guilty when I see that dreaded sentence "Keep in touch"...
Chain mails...

New cuisines...
Added responsibilities...
Missing home...

Being independent.

It seems that just yesterday, we finished our last university exams.

One year.

Unbelievably short, yet long.

Tuesday, 5 August, 2008

Of Two Rupee coins, Feviqwik and Rosary beads...


My siblings and I had this common penchant for swallowing stuff when we were kids. By stuff I do not mean anything remotely edible. Rather coins, glues, stones and beads. And edible stuffs? We prefer to stuff them through other orifices. e.g.:- nostrils.

Let’s go back in time, rewind nearly two decades.

One fine morning Mom gives s me a plateful of mixture and a boxful of toys. Toys include an assortment of beads and chains, which used to be my favourite. Asking me to be a good girl she goes in to bath and I proceed to ‘play’. Minutes later, she came back to find the plate, half empty and the toys intact. Wait a minute…!
"Where is the big rosary???"
I show an "Um!" (Snap your mouth shut, you’ll know what I mean.)
Yep, I had swallowed it.
A metal rosary with three beads.

Epilogue: Neighbour aunty tells Mom, "Don’t worry; there is a problem only if she starts vomiting"
And I start half an hour later. My Dad and Mom were in anguish till the next day when the beads naturally came out. And I never got beads to play thereafter. sigh.

The next episode comes before or after this one, I don’t exactly remember. But the time period is pretty much the same. One fine morning, my mom once again gives me a plateful of mixture and toys (minus the bead versions) and goes into the kitchen.
A sniffling sound brings her back to me and lo!
There stands Jiyamol with a peanut stuffed deep in the nostril. (I honestly don’t remember this at all!)
Our neighbour, I used to fondly call him Ammavan, came to the rescue this time.
"Don’t worry; I’ll take it out" And he successfully stuffed the peanut deeper inside.

Epilogue: My regular ENT specialist (My! he must have made a fortune had I been a kid still) had to do a near surgery to take the stuffed peanut out. And the specimen had enlarged to the size of a lemon. Ok... Not that big; at least thrice the normal size. Cute, isn’t it?

I am proud to say I set the right example at the right time. These vivid, enchanting tales inspired my siblings to continue the legends.

My sister couldn’t exactly ‘swallow’; given the object concerned was a Feviqwik tube.
So she chewed it and got her mouth literally shut up. And it took us a joy ride to three hospitals to get her mouth opened, cleansed and then her stomach washed.

Epilogue: She never used Feviqwik thereafter.

My brother was more of my league.
One fine afternoon, mom was having a small nap. I was reading beside her. And my siblings were playing in the same room.
Suddenly my sis shouts, "Ayyo! He ate the coin! He ate the coin!"
Yup; my brother swallowed a coin.
Guess which one.
The largest possible one - A 2 rupee coin.

Epilogue: Thank god, we didn’t need much of an effort to get it out of his throat before it descended. But it did take considerable effort to calm down Mom.

As I said before, I don’t remember anything at all about my escapades and I’m sure nor would my siblings about theirs, but for my mom who recollects these ‘tales’ every now and then with much vigour.

After all these are memories that would never fade and would make us laugh for years to come. :)

Monday, 28 July, 2008

The Gang of Girls.


This is dedicated to five people.
Five people who have made my college days unforgettable.
The Gang of Girls. :)

"Hi I am Merin Susan George from TocH Public School...!"

The thickly accented girl immediately struck me as arrogant. A typical Jaada, I decided. But time proved me gravely wrong. One of the most innocent people I have ever known, she is now one of the closest people to me.

"Hey I am Parvati. What about you?? I and Merin were together in tuition classes you know. Merin, do you remember that day when Joseph sir was teaching blah blah and we started chatting and sir asked us to keep quiet or get out! I studied in Bhavans. It’s been a long vacation sort of after 12th right? What did you do...?? I got so bored!! And when I went to….Blah blah”

She was the chatterbox. With a big heart and an inversely proportionate stature, she invariably became the life of our class. :)

"Hi"
"Hi… What’s your name?"
"Annie. And yours?"
.....

She was a bit aloof but pleasant. On that first day, I spent most the lunch break with her. All of us were scared of the seniors hovering around; so we confined ourselves to the supposed security of our classroom. Slowly we became friends and then friends, for a lifetime. She was the cautious one of the gang, the caretaker, the disciplinarian; but naughty when times demanded. :) Without her I don’t know what we would have done many a times. :)


"She is Sarah. She was the 12th topper in UAE!!!"

Wow! But I was very surprised by her. She was not at all like an NRI girl, or rather an NRI topper. :) Sarah could easily have passed off as a typical Malayali damsel. Quiet (at first sight), sweetly smiling, with an even sweeter voice. It took me a really long time to get to know her; but now I know I definitely wasted those days.


“Hey, you can sit here… I’m Elizabeth“

She was sitting alone on the first bench the next day. Chubby, pretty and smiling, the moment I saw her, I knew I had known her somewhere. It must have been those vibes you get when you meet those people who are going to be your lifelong fellow travellers. And she, thus, became my twin for many days to come in college.

All of us, except Sarah, were day scholars. So we have surely missed the hostel times. But there is no end to the fun we’ve had on our own. Hen parties, usually at Merin’s house, bearing her cooking ;) , Late night (flop) movies when we all would chat and then doze off halfway through, Window shopping sprees, Excursions, Photo sessions, Crank calls, Anonymous cards, KR treats, Combine studies, Birthday bashes…… Times I’ll never forget.

Things have changed.

But girls, I miss those days.

I miss you all.

[All Names are changed due to privacy issues :) ]

Origin of 'ism's


Disclaimer : This post does not discuss mystifying philosophical queries or controversial radical beliefs.

Then what is this about? Nor do I have any idea because some people call the 'ism's I am referring to, superstitions and many others, beliefs.

Many of the Malayalis must have seen the movie 'Sadanandante samayam’. This is one flick which could be an answer for "Which of the following films agree with this post most?"
(Please forgive the CAT analogy!)
Well my point is that I am just giving some loony thoughts to some loonier isms; I wouldn't dare call them superstitions because for some of us they are beliefs deep-rooted.

The aim is pure entertainment!

Enough of intro; Here we go...!

1.
If the first object you see when you step out of your house is a broom, then your day is doomed. Yes, doomed.
(I am not sure if this 'radical notion' is prevalent in other parts of the country, but in Kerala, Yes!)

Possibly invented by an innocent husband who was prone to waking up late and regularly had the misfortune of being beaten around the house with painfully large brooms; by, obviously, the wife. Very often I get out of my PG at the perfect time to see the cleaning lady sweeping the road, with not one but at least 2 brooms at a time! And I strongly believe this is the sole reason for my sometimes unfairly hectic work and everything that goes haywire in my day. You can definitely account the recession and the rising inflation to this grave fact.

2.
If a black cat jumps across your path, again, your day is doomed. (Scary!!!)

Must have been invented by a chronic cat-o-phobiac (forgive my coining of the term...) for reasons obvious. For e.g.:- If I am to see first thing in the morning, a snake merrily slithering besides me, I wouldn't be particularly joyous. Why Black....? Maybe he/she was black-o-phobic too! I wonder if the glamorous horror status of black cats, enhanced with glowing eyes in Malayalam movies, is a result of this belief or vice-versa.....

3.
If the number of grey hairs on your head is equal to x, where x less than 11, Lady Luck may well be your Godmother..!

Now how insane can this be??? I have escaped the brunt of some friends of mine who fall under the above category and when they fret about the same, I try to put in this, ahem, fact, and thanks to my stars I have escaped unscathed many a times. Some old prince's excuse for his grey hairs (when dyes were still not in use and henna was supposed to adorn girls' hands...), I wonder how such crazy ideas carry on from generation to generation!!!! Well... I particularly pity a particular grandma of one particular neighbor in this regard: She was near 70 and had not a single grey hair. I can see green eyes glowing from several quarters. But people, the fact is,
if the number of grey hairs on your head is equal to............

4.
Don’t call a person from behind if he is leaving from the house.

Aha! This is one 'belief' with strong roots in my family. I used to be regularly on the receiving end of my mother's wrath for the breach of the same. I mean, you see someone going out with their shirt on back to front or say, with wrong chappals on both the feet, well, calm down, and restrain yourself. Don’t call them back. You may ruin their day!

5. See a pot full of water first thing when you start your day. (Err..... Is this considered lucky or unlucky?)
Maybe it’s just a strong hint to take a bath in the morning. :P

6. See a cow first thing in the morning. (Lucky)
Great reason to rent a house with cattle shed. Don't you think this might probably be the result of some shrewd medieval milk marketing strategy?

There are plenty more. Some funnier, some serious, some with specific scientific reasons behind…. But superstitions prevail no matter how far mankind will advance.

I am putting this forth to you to continue the thread….

Unveil your beliefs and please validate the ones above (Strict warning: Purely nutty thoughts alone are allowed!)

Monday, 30 June, 2008

KNot A Laughing Matter!


The most awaited day during school days was our 'Annual day'.

Speakers sat in a queue on the dais longer than the front row audience...
We had to wait for hours through the endless speeches, felicitations and reports to get our much-awaited prizes...
And, if participating, we had to sit with 3 inch thick makeup on, for 4 to 5 hours at a stretch!

Still... Annual days are the most memorable foldouts from the beautiful book of school life.

Most of our annual days would be conducted in the Fine Arts hall, Cochin. So it was a day to 'freak out' with friends.

Freak out --> Going to Fine arts hall from school in school bus (usually in what we call soap petti, an ancient specimen of TATA’s technology. It also remotely resembles a mootta (bedbug)) accompanied ONLY by the Principal, head teachers and well, most other teachers; and then spending almost the whole day with them.

But I must tell you, it was always worth the fun.

Reaching the Hall, we rush to the green rooms and book seats in front of the makeup man.
Well he is one man whom I have admired wholeheartedly in my life. Well, you would adore him yourself if you happen to sit in front of him for 1 hour without breathing, let alone uttering a single word and finally you look into the mirror n say something like..

"Hi! Who.....?"

I can’t understand what on earth made us BOOK seats in front of him.....! To get all that paint (I sometimes wonder if he used old tins of Nerolac) stamped onto your poor unassuming face.
I also admire my Mom a bit more because she can remove the same makeup in 1 hour (My friend claims her mom can do it in 56 minutes...Close but no proof! :P)
That too, with oil, soap and water being the only available solvents, while I am dozing off to sleep after the hectic day.

So that brings us to the glorious dances, one of which is our star here - my most unforgettable.

It was a Folk dance; a group folk dance. I don’t remember the song but it lasted for 10 minutes and was something along the lines of the typical 60s and 70s Mallu film songs (the tribal group dance type).
So well, it was a group dance. I was (un)fortunate enough to be in the middle. 7 of us had practiced for a month rigorously under our dance teacher losing precious classes! (With duty leave of course! ;) ) And finally the D-Day was here...


We dressed up in all the ‘beautiful’ costumes after makeup. I pity those who haven’t got an opportunity to wear them. Colours like fluorescent pink, yellow, gold and orange adorn different parts of the dress. There was a rumor that the tailor used to pick the leftover cloth pieces and fashion these 'trendy outfits'... Anyways, I have a fighting temptation to upload a pic for your reference but my self respect thankfully prevents me from doing it. (No, I will not show you the pic!)
If the dresses are trendy, the accessories are top notch haute couture!
Golden crown, weighing 1 kg each...Bangles of Gold, Silver, Yellow.... A minimum of 5 neck chains... Chilanka (big anklets)... Yeah, Not much. :/
These are the normal fittings for most of the dances...
And on that fateful day, we had long vaarmudis too. (Artificial plaited hair usually a minimum of 1 metre long)


.....The long felicitations and speeches were through...
…..The prayer songs and group songs too....
And then the anchor announced...

"Bringing before you onstage... youth festival prizewinners for Group dance!!....."

Brimming with pride we entered the stage...

The first 2 minutes of the song is sort of a warm-up. We run around the stage and then stand in different poses (There are different terms for these in technical classical dance language but for the laymen’s reference I am using some common comments that we receive from our friends….)


Plucking mangoes’ was an all time favorite - with all of us turning in different directions and then lifting a leg and a hand into diametrically opposite directions with any one of the ‘navarasas’ on face. Considering the effort it usually was ‘dhukham’.
Others were the ‘Sakuntala and darbhamuna’, ‘Getting ready for high jump’, ‘Stork praying on one leg’ etc. etc…


The first couple of poses were over and we turned and ran for the next one…. Suddenly I felt something pulling me from behind… The constraints of the pose prevented me from turning back but I turned my face slightly.

I saw a knot of black ropes.

A second later, to my utter horror, I realized that mine and my friend Swapna’s vaarmudis had entwined!

Then I saw her face.

‘Bhayanakam’.

Wow. Perfect.

Later on I would know from her that the same navarasa was on my face too.

The song was playing on. After a few seconds we both would run in opposite directions.
Either one of us would have to dance with 2 metre long hair (rather a tail) or with boy cut.

We tried tugging at it slightly. Nope. No use. We’d fall down (It was one of the mango poses).
Our heartbeats and the intensity of our expressions increased exponentially.
Hundreds of pairs of eyes were staring at us.

Ommm……Oommmm…Omkaramaya porul moonnayi pirinju……..’

Second Om was through… ‘pirinju…’ and we had to run.

Our dance teacher was almost hysterical and was beating her chest as if to mourn.
And then, like an angel, our Math teacher sprinted into action.
She too, apparently, was watching the scene and contemplating the consequences.
The next second, she ran into the stage behind us, broke apart the knot (Kyunki saas bhi style) and ran out through the other side.

You can never imagine the relief Swapna and I felt then.
I could swear I heard a collective sigh from the audience too. (Wow.. what a sympathetic audience!)

No other casualties happened thereafter. The dance was a hit.

Once done, we rushed to the green room and started discussing frantically about all the mishaps that could have happened!!

The rest 5 of us were unaware of the tragedy-that-could-have-been and expressed relevant expressions like “Whaaaat!!”s and “ Oh my Gawwwd!!”s .
Our dance teacher came running to both of us and started kissing our foreheads as if welcoming the prodigal son home.

All of us were in no doubt that the audience panicked too seeing the event and then rejoiced in the solution.

I ran out of the green room (Changing the costume of course, and using a kerchief to cover my face) to my Dad.

“How was it Appa?”

“It was good. But why did Elizabeth ma’am run in between?”

Oops.

Wednesday, 25 June, 2008

A Lucky Draw....?


Do you remember the day you were born...? Seeing the first rays of the sun...? Uttering your first cry?
I bet you dont..But you will definitely be sure that there were expert obstetricians and nurses to monitor your entry into this beautiful world...
Your father must have waited restlessly to receive you into his arms.
And finally beside your mother, beside her caresses, you must have fallen into a deep slumber...

It must have been a lucky dip... Thou shall live in this body....He must have said...
And you, unawares, born unto love, care, security. What if your lot was a fraction late..? or early...?
How would it have been.... To be born where you are not wanted.... Into hands ready to strangle.... Onto the doorsteps of an orphan's asylum....?

We preach of equality... We definitely are, in the eyes of our creator.
What can we be proud about, mortal chunks of flesh...?
If he decides to call you back this moment how better are you from the soul next to you..? or worse...?

Thursday, 19 June, 2008

Mercy


For every soul so sweetly loved
Comes a moment that deeply hurts..
Hurt, we do, but never realise
Fathoms deep goes the trickling blood.
The rose knows not how it hurts
Of its bloom, yes, its proud..
Dont I make them happy she thinks
But alas the pricks she knows them not..
Is there a way to undo the wrongs?
Ask for mercy, forgive and forget..
But nails on a wall still leaves the lesions
Pardon one may but leaving the wounds.

Tuesday, 27 May, 2008

Journey to the Hill Palace - Part II


Flashback:

Date : 22nd of April 2008
Characters : 4 wayfarers

( Class 3 pupils - 2 (male)
Class 7pupil - 1 (female)
Working professional - 1 (female)) :D

Destination : Tripunithura Hill palace

Foreigners say that if you ever travel in India it must be in an auto rickshaw, the three wheeled bug-like marvel of Indian automotive technology. ;)

So in this marvel we began our excursion. But soon enough I realized that we had a crisis in hand.
Kids generally have only one thing to fight about regarding their road odysseys. Namely, ‘Who gets to sit at the sides?’
And voila! I had with me, three kids in give-me-the-side-seat-or-I-will-strangle-you mode.
Autos have (unfortunately) two side seats. Somehow I manage to sit at the open side. That’s settled. But alas the other side remains.
I really don’t remember who reached it first since what I could see was an agglomeration of the three in a bundle.


“Stop pushing meee!!!”
“I reached first!!!”
Nooooooooooo… get out”
“#$@#$$%^&&@@!#”

I am considerably scared owing to the fact that my brother holds a yellow belt in karate. Alright I agree yellow one is considerably low profile but there is no use assessing its merits and demerits when my bro feels like demonstrating his karate skills right then.

Autochettan is having a jolly-good time watching the spectacle.
After a fight good enough for Jackie Chan to reproduce, my sister finally wins. (Girl power :) ) And there goes my brother’s face into a very close reproduction of a football (slightly modified but very close).

General sportsman spirit expects the winner to cheer up the loser, shake hands, hug...
But by now you must have realized that here, such a mechanism would end in swollen faces or broken body parts. :/ Wishing to get all three at the destination as full packages I tell my brother how failures are the stepping stones to success and stuff to that effect. I think he didn't quite love the lecture from the way he glared back at me. And I retreat back to enjoying the wonderful view outside... beautiful...seriously!

Kids have a wonderful quality. They fight this minute and the next will sit and play like cronies. So did my dears... :)
By and by the clouds cleared and the mood turned light. By 10.45 we reached the gates of Hill palace. (Finally!)

All three were in high spirits in spite of the horrid April sun. With their stylish caps on and tiny carry bags on shoulders they really looked cute... :)

We took tickets at the entrance and entered the vast grounds.
The palace is on a slightly raised hill. Tarred roads lead to the palace winding on and on like a zigzag rope. But there was a shorter route. 118 steps (Thanks to my brother’s onsite math revision) lead straight to the palace doors.

Our small group started towards it, pausing on the way to click several pix in different poses.
Suddenly on the way we see the board leading to the children’s park in the opposite direction… I experience a centrifugal force in that particular direction and realize it’s my brother trying to sprint into the park. Somehow managing to pull him back, we start climbing.

We enter with high hopes of clicking pictures sitting in the king’s throne and with the old warriors’ swords but thanks to the security the camera is confiscated and we are left with a bottle of water. :(

This did not really bother the trio. The point of animated discussion now was

‘Who will sit on the throne first??’
Smelling another combat we start the tour around the palace. The kings in the olden days lived real lavish you must see! Passing through the old jewellery rooms, bedrooms and what not, finally the courtroom is in sight. The Throne!!
One among the musketeers spots it; somebody shouts; the thrilled threesome rush towards the mighty throne; the security glares at me; I run after them; And to my utmost relief they are blocked by a sort of barricade. Whew!
A bit disappointed, the rest of the tour is not conducted in very good spirits. But the rest was mostly history. So it wouldn’t have excited them any better.

For the history lover’s info: The hill palace was the central ruling place of the famous Kochi royal family till the first few decades of the last century when the royal rule finally came to an end. All sorts of artifacts ranging from the royal clothes, jewellery, perfumes, utensils, spoons, armours, shields, swords, carriages, pots etc. are exhibited. But one exhibit that caught my attention most was a unique piece of instrument for punishing criminals who had committed severe crimes such as attempting to murder the king or extreme treason. You could say it is one of the most savage ways for capital punishment. The instrument is neither a guillotine nor a garrotte. The criminal who is persecuted is hung from a tree in metal shackles. It totally covers him but at the same time offers ample open space (so he is not suffocated), has such a construction that the criminal can actually stand upon it even though he hangs from the tree. So how is he left to die?
Well, of hunger and worse still, eaten by vultures or other birds of prey.



Anyways we come out of the palace and find a nursery close by. My sister is crazy about plants so she coaxes me to buy a couple of saplings. Her wish is fulfilled. Member 1 happy for the day!

The rest 2 are tugging at me with 2 requests:

1.Fanta/ Mirinda
2.Deer park

Ok, Deer park I agree. About Fanta and Mirinda I take a short lecture about Plachimada and poisoning and ground water replenishment and blah blah. But sigh; you guessed it right. One Fanta less in the shop.

Being almost 12 the sun is scorching atop. So nothing eventual happens in the deer park. The deers look so ancient that the lady who was inside to feed them caught more attention! :/
The trio started picking ‘manjadikkurus’ from the pathway enjoying every moment. :)

We walk back realizing that the major attractions in the hill palace are over. I walk towards the gate to call an auto when whoosh! Gone! How could I forget the park?!!

Another hour is spent with me running around all the slides and swings and see-saws yelling ‘Let’s go home’ ‘Mummy is calling’. In fact Mummy really was calling and firing me for being late. Anyway after about an hour of fun and frolic they themselves come and tell me
Povaam???” Who said kids can't be sensible? :)
Coming back in the auto, we were all really tired.

But honestly, It was one of the best feelings ever, seeing those three exhausted but gladly smiling faces. :)

The End!

Tuesday, 13 May, 2008

El Misti

Through the blanket of warm air,
I hear a rumbling noise
I do hear it all the time
Day and night, over and over.

It must be my thoughts, my secret chimera;
It doesn’t matter, it'll pass, it shall.

What do they say of the law that teaches,
You can stretch on till that breaking point?
What-ever it is, true it is.
For after that point everything breaks.

The rumbling was true not some reverie,
I did know, but did I? Guess not.

The lava gushes out.
It burns; it disgusts.
But had it another way?
Never would it know.

Those were my thoughts, my fears forever,
Finding no vent through my futile pretence.

Friday, 25 April, 2008

Journey to the Hill Palace - Part 1


20th of April 2008. Sunday.

My siblings were furious when the trip to Bangalore was postponed.
That’s when I decided to stay with them and take them out somewhere.
But where??? Options were plenty....
Veegaland
Subhash Park
Shopping
Hill palace...
Cochin is supposed to be the most famous tourist spot in Kerala after all!

My sis was coughing hard. Bro was still weak from his viral fever.
So Mom immediately ruled out Veegaland from the list.

Shopping..?? Both might kick me after a spree of shopping. They'd definitely not find their beatitude there.... :
Park...? But how long can you spend your time in a park..?
(Ok I confess... I'm taking them. I need my portion of entertainment too. Right..?? :D )

Hill palace..... Well both of them have been there twice or so from school...
So I was about to rule it out when I just asked them finally...

"How about Hill palace..?”
"Ayyo jiyachechy athu mathi
athu mathi...!”

Ok...
Conclusion 1: kids never get tired of the same place no matter how boring we find it to be; no matter how many times they have been there...

22nd of April 2008: Tuesday.


Time has passed... (Ok two days is not like decades or centuries.
But if you are a kid of 9 or 12 years having your summer vacations, yes;
Time does pass like bullets. Memories fade... ... too much I guess but still, Time did pass.....)

Now presenting the idea to Mom. The next challenge...

"Mummy, was thinking if I could take them to Hill palace... by 10 o clock..?" (Time of asking permission: 9.30)
"Hmmmm........ (That’s a definitely good sign.... :))
...when will you come back....? (Permission granted!!!!!!!!!) "
"By 1 or 2... Mostly..."
"Don’t let them play in the sun k...."
"Oh sure..!”

Conclusion 2: Ask permission to Mummy at the eleventh hour...
(Also when both protagonists are quiet - i.e. when not in their usual 'can-be-termed-medically-unfit' conditions)

"Tantadaaaaaaa... we are going to......................Hill palace!!!!!!!!”

"(Commotion ruckus hoo-has)“

Conclusion 3: Break happy news to kids without prior notice... Joy will be doubled; with the risk of being grounded and stampeded. :/

Almost Half an hour left. 9.35

Things had to move pretty fast; i.e., before Mom gets time to reconsider her decision..!!
I think I did see my bro going in to bath. But the validity of the assumption can be questioned since he was out ready in 2 minutes. :/
My sister was frolicking around jumping and whooping and occasionally hugging me tight;
And finally after an eventful stretch of 7 minutes and 7 seconds (definitely close) we the Trio like 3 musketeers were ready to start the eventful trip!

18 minutes left. 9.42

That’s when our beloved neighbour kid - My brother's dearest friend and all ours darling- enters.

"Kutta... Coming to Hill palace with us..??? "
Even before I could finish the question, off he went back to his house,
Dialed his mom who had gone out,
Got permission (I strongly believe he must have cut the phone before aunty could have opened her mouth.)
Dressed and reported back to the base camp ready in 5 minutes.

13 minutes left.

Transportation is a problem owing to the fact that I possess a valid and beautifully laminated driving license which is used only as an ID proof
And we have an alto car in the porch. I wouldn’t endanger these dear kids' lives so we call an auto and the auto will reach soon...
Soon...
Very soon...
Soon.

Sorry... I have lost count of time. But when the Expedition boarded the Auto, Time was 10.25.

Mummy was in very good spirits... So the time till then passed collecting inventory for the Picnic!
Mainly food, water and ...food. Not that me and my siblings particularly gorge upon food.
If you know me personally you will definitely shun that idea as ridiculous.
But we did take food. (Finishing it is another matter ;) )

And at sharp 10.26 the four of us- My sis, bro, neighbour-kuttan and me, started off our glorious journey to the majestic, historic, Hill Palace.....

Wednesday, 23 April, 2008

Lonely ways

The way seems blurred,
But everyone says, 'Aint i there'.
The world seems cruel,
But all at once people care more.

Love redefined,
Care hidden no more..
Hidden intentions,
Words sugarcoated.

Dreams are shattered,
And ways parted.
Fear creeps in,
But smile you must.

A gust of wind sweeps away the leaves..
And a moment's twist, the sweet memories.
But something tells me, worry no more.
This is not the end, you must go forth.