ஒரு கவிதை

உச்சி முகர்கையில் உதடு வருடுவது
மெச்சும் கண்ணன் மயிரோ மயிலிறகோ
வட்ட விழிதவழ் கருமணி இழைத்த
சுட்ட பவழமோ ! பொக்கை வாயில்தேன்
சொட்டச் சொட்டத் திதிக்கும் நகையுதிர்
தொட்டில் நிதியே ! சிறுநா வெண்மைத்
திட்டும் பரமன் பாற்கடலோ, உன்னை
ஒட்டி உறங்கும் போது நின் குறுநகத்
தீண்டலோ இல்லைத் தென்றல் வருடலோ,
எண்ணித் திளைத்து வியந்து சிலிர்த்தேனே

கண்ணுருட்டி கைகால் முறுக்கி
கண்ணிரண்டில் தீட்டிய மை கலைத்து
தண்டமிட்ட தாள்நோக ஓங்கி உதைத்து
உண்டமுது மெய் படர்க்கும் நின்னழகில்,
கொண்ட கருமம் மறந்து சொக்கினனே.
உண்டபின் பண்டமிழ்ப் பாட்டு கேட்டு
கண்ணுறங்கும் மின்மினி தெவிட்டாக் கோலம்
கண்டுருகி மூச்சடக்கி முத்தமிட்ட போது
எண்ணம் மறந்து, என்னைத் தொலைத்து
வெண்முகில் புகுந்து ஆடிக் களித்தேனே !

மகனுக்கு ஓர் தாலாட்டு

கண்ணே , மணியே கொஞ்சம் நீ கண்ணுறங்கு
அன்னை அழகாய் ஈன்ற நன்மை உருவே,
மின்னலைப் பிடித்து முடியில் சூட, மழையின்
பின்னே ஓடிய மென்மைப் பாதம் ஓய்வெடுக்க
பொன்னே, என் மகனே நீ அயர்ந்துறங்கு !!
 

கன்னம் தரையில் சாய்த்துக் களங்கமின்றிக் கிடக்கையில்
என்னை அறியாமல் செல்லமே, கண்ணீர் பெருகுதே 
இன்னல் இஃதென்றுணரும் முன்னே, உடைத்து
உன்னை அணைக்க ஓடோடி வருவேன், கவலை
இன்றி உறங்காயோ என்னவள் பெற்ற மரகதமே!

 
நிலவொளியும் தீச்சுடுதோ , எந்தன் நிழலுந்தான்
வலிக்குதுவோ கூறாயே , தீஞ்சுவை தமிழிசையும் உன்
செவிகளுக்குப் பாரமோ , என் முத்தத்தின் ஈரம்
உலரும் முன் நோகுதுவோ, பதை பதைக்கும் உந்தை
பதகளிப்பைப் போக்கி, மாரில் சாய்ந்து உறங்காயோ !


சன்னல் வழி ஒழுகும் தென்றலே, சத்தமின்றி வீசாயோ !
இன்றைய இரவின் பூச்சிகளே, மௌன இசை போராதோ ?
துன்பம் தோய்ந்த உலகில் நின்று இன்பம் தன்னை
நன்றாய்ப் பிரித்து, கொஞ்சும் கனியே உனக்களிப்பேன்
என்மடியில் எல்லாம் மறந்து மெல்ல நீயும் உறங்கு!

The Pink Shirt- A Short story

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Image source link

“I wont let you wear this”, I heard Gayathri saying when I was gobbling up the steaming morning idlis without noticing the underlying irritation in her tone. “Why, what’s the …”, before I finished the sentence, she shoved the shirt blocking the idli’s trajectory to my mouth. The collar bared open its seam through the torn cloth. It was a striped pink shirt I got for my wedding. Gayu had liked it when I wore for the first time “You can even pull off pink, huh !” she exclaimed. That’s a solid three year old statement and I don’t think my garments get any attention from her anymore. I didn’t find anything special about the shirt, except that its cheap polyester cloth makes ironing in the morning rush hour plausible. It frequently came out of my wardrobe and now it’s ready for retirement with the torn collar as a keepsake.

“Throw this out”, she dropped the shirt carelessly picking another shirt to press. I silently finished my breakfast. Men who depend on their wife to press their shirts before office are not entitled to opinions, except when it’s in agreement with her. I work in a university where the students walk with torn and unwashed jeans, unkempt hair and torn t-shirts, (sorry, technically they are called ‘slit t-shirts’), where no one will have any interest to notice the defect in my collar. This can last till next Deepavali when I can replace this to maintain an equilibrium in the total number of shirts stuffed in my wardrobe. But no, Gayathri asked me to throw this out and I was going to do that. I realized that I hardly have thrown any of my shirts. “What did I do with those shirts”, I tried to think as I slipped my socks after stuffing the lunch box inside my bag. I guess, the good shirts when they retire became household use shirts, which I wore for nearby market or when I went for a haircut. But what happened to them that stretched to accommodate me and faded over time after that? I guess some were contributed for housekeeping. Till one Sunday siesta when I noticed the clean blades of ceiling fan, never did I realize that my discarded shirt sleeves were sought after for dusting fan blades. And many shirts were donated to volunteers who visited every year following floods and famine to help the needy. I had hardly given any thought who these volunteers were and why do they need so many clothes? Were there so many people affected by famine and what would happen if they couldn’t find anyone who could fit into my shirt’s size. Notwithstanding the above sources, Amma always managed to maintain her share of old unusable clothes to buy kitchen utensils. Yes, there were vendors who accepted old clothes- a pile of old clothes- and sold utensils in exchange. I had always wondered what use did he have for so much of used clothes and how did they become worthy enough to be exchanged for a stainless coffee tumbler or a spoon.

During my marriage my wardrobe scaled new heights with so many new shirts and after three years the problem of torn collars scaled to the same height. I looked at the striped pink shirt again. As I said, its an ordinary shirt, but now when I decided to throw it that I was caught in a new found affection for the shirt. I touched the seams and felt the cloth and tried to remember how good it looked and fit on me over the years. With it, matching any of my two blue jeans I have is not a problem, which means it can stick on me comfortably on any day of the week. I took it near the window and noticed that it had not faded much. Ptch.. just the collars and Gayathri can’t stand them..I can’t stand this nice shirt used as mopping cloth. Anyway Amma won’t accept polyester shirts as mopping cloth (Men who don’t understand the reason, please try to mop a dirty floor with a polyester cloth) and no more vendors walked the streets with a sack to collect old shirts and gift a shining stainless steel vessel in return. So I was left with the option of throwing it out. Philanthropic tentacles bound loosely hidden somewhere in my nervous system suddenly rejuvenated and squeezed a thought inside to make someone needy happy with this nice shirt (even Gayu will agree that albeit its torn seam, it’s a nice shirt).

I folded the shirt along its creases and slid it inside the front pouch of my office bag. Remembering my decision to make someone happy, I secretly sprayed my perfume on it. In minutes, I started walking towards my university. I would soon meet an impoverished beggar in the road and would give it to him. He would press the shirt against his untidy face, cherish the fragrance from the perfume and probably would thank god for the gift. My ego and spirits beaming with pride soon faded finding no poor beggars on the road. I reached my office finally with the shirt unmoved from the front pouch. I thought that I could find one by evening. As I left office by the end of the day, I checked the shirt again, the effect of perfume still lingering, affecting a small volume of air around it. I walked slowly and paused at every corner, every tea stall and pavement hoping to find a poor beggar. Although my home is not far from the University, it must not be difficult to find a beggar- for between every milestone there spread hundreds of them. And despite our planning commission’s desperate efforts to tweak the poverty line and declare many starving people as rich, the number below the poverty line doesn’t show a nice face for the progressive image of the country. Even a tiny fraction of that number can supply adequate beggars in every town.

Next day I started a little early. Perhaps, the beggars leave the neighborhood for work early morning before sun, for I couldn’t spot one. Maybe, people in my neighborhood are not charitable towards them driving them from the neighbourhood. I despised my neighbors as the possibility passed my mind. With a nice shirt in my bag and my willingness to donate it, I allowed my ego to look down all the non-charitable minds who live around. But my efforts met with no results that day evening too. As I walked the streets on the third morning, unknowingly I started humming “where have all the flowers gone..?” and stopped in realization that I referred the beggars as flowers.

It’s the fourth day and I lost faith in finding a recipient for my pink shirt. I crossed a building and noticed a watchman and thought that he could be made happier. The prospect brought a gush of cheer and hope. After all, it’s such a nice shirt and it need not be forced onto a beggar. Perhaps, the watchman may appreciate even the value of the brand. But, I had already crossed the gate with indecision and I wasn’t comfortable going back to offer the shirt. So I started looking for similar watchmen in other buildings. The one in front of Sangeetha restaurant looked really impoverished; even the thick canvas-like khaki shirt couldn’t hide his exposed rib lines. He looked as if he hadn’t eaten a proper meal for days. Quipping myself about the irony that he is guarding the restaurant, I slowly walked further. He may appreciate a good meal than a shirt, yet once he is fed he will be able to appreciate the shirt, I satisfied myself. But my shirt must be too big for him. His whole family with a pet, if any, can be comfortably fit into my shirt. So I passed him and looked for other options.

As I stood near the zebra crossing waiting for the pedestrian green, I saw an autorickshaw driver on the other side. I thought he could be a worthy recipient. I had lot of time before the signal pitied the poor pedestrians and turned green. I rehearsed what I would tell him when I offer this. I might approach with a smile and open my bag, looking at him I would say “This is one of my favourite shirts and the collar has torn a bit, but it’s very good otherwise. I thought that it could be of use to you”. He would beam with the prospect of this nice shirt and thank me. I could just walk happily, maybe I could write in my diary “by the way, I made one man happy”. That sounded nice inside my head. I wait for few more minutes and along with the restless motorbikes and mad honks I crossed the road. But, as I crossed, my confidence dropped. What if he doesn’t respond the way I imagined? What if he considers this as an insult? or maybe he is rich enough to afford a much better new shirt. Worst, what if he spat on my face throwing abuse?

I hastily walked past him without looking at him. I had a feel that he probably read my intention and already showed his distaste in his eyes. The good prospect of donating vanished that day as well. As I reached my office, I saw the housekeeping janitors and felt excited. They would appreciate and deserve it better than my other shortlisted recipients. But the risk of my reputation-loss is worse than that with the auto rickshaw driver. To avoid any potential insult, I carefully kept the shirt on a granite slab in front of the men’s restroom. I knew that they usually kept their belongings on the slab and will definitely notice the shirt and probably take it. Sitting in my office, I tried to follow any human movement towards the restroom. I didn’t use the rest room the whole day fearing that I might embarrass them if I happen to enter at the exact jiffy of their taking the shirt from slab and stuffing into their bag. It is difficult to explain my disappointment when I saw the shirt untouched by the end of the day and it’s impossible for anyone to imagine my frustrated humiliation when the shirt remained there for a solid two days. Under normal circumstances, I should have been happy with the honesty exhibited by the janitors. But I was angry, and attributed their behaviour born out of arrogance from their recently gained affluence. I couldn’t bear its unwelcome presence anymore there and hastily took it back, of course ensuring that no one watched me. Imagine the repercussions if those janitors saw me in that instant and think that I am actually taking the shirt from the rest room which they didn’t even acknowledge. Though it was my shirt once, its retreat after two days of its closeness to men’s rest room left me disgusted. I pushed it into a polythene and washed my hands clean. The once perfumed pink shirt entered the front pouch of my bag again, except that it was now looked down upon by the inmates of the bag.

Next morning when I started, the shirt in my bag weighed too heavy on my shoulders. I traced my everyday route passing the railway station. Suddenly, a thought flashed that there would actually be beggars inside or in the pavement of railway station. Yes, that’s it! They weren’t gone anywhere, but the railway station. Why didn’t I think about it earlier? My steps gained pace and my stooped shoulders extended outwards with newfound confidence. Approaching the railway station, I spotted a beggar squatting with a kid. I was so happy and walked faster. The stench around her was unbearable. I thought about the perfume I dabbed on the shirt a week back and couldn’t bear to insult the shirt by giving it to her. But, I should have better sense not to expect a clean and smart beggar waiting to receive my pink shirt. What could one say? Sometimes your thoughts are blunt of common sense. Anyway, I passed her and reached the next beggar. He was sleeping and next to him was a bundle of clothes. I thought I would silently keep the pouch with the shirt on his bundle and walk away. However, my confidence had been shattered by the humbling humiliation the janitor unknowingly parted. I was afraid that the beggar might get up, examine the shirt and denounce it. I was scared at the prospect of seeing the shirt again that evening near the beggar untouched. I was helpless and clueless on what to do. I wandered to other exit of the railway station. To relieve me of all the struggle, two angels in the form of beggars were found begging alms. I approached them, both were leprosy affected and I couldn’t bear the sight of the disfigurement that had begun already. One of them looked at me and extended his arms, expecting some coins. I left him confused with the pouch with this shirt. I didn’t wait for his acknowledgement nor his reaction. I just walked faster and faster away from him and away from my pink shirt, relieved and resolved not to take any trains for at least the following three months.

A rainy day in Delhi

It started raining, finally after a long and relentless Delhi summer. The mud so parched drank greedily, filling their slender deep bellies caught between the dried cracks with fresh water and burped the muddy fragrance that was locked beneath. All these are fine, but the romance etched with the fresh rains of Trivandrum that are so punctual to pour on the school reopening day is missing here in Delhi. Well, unlike south, these north Indians have a strange habit of closing and reopening the school multiple times during summer that the rains could have been legitimately confused.

The rains here pour down unceremoniously. The transparent water javelins do not dance when they descend, nor do they sing with a cheer when you open your windows to listen. They are just like multiple leaks from the giant water tank somewhere up beneath the west sky. One good thing they do is to settle the dust around. Pollution levels have dropped down finally and who knows, Aravind Kejriwal may shamelessly credit this to his odd-even policy. Skies are blue. The dust blanket capable of multiple diffractions between mine and the neighbor’s window is brought down and the beautiful lady visible through the window is indeed a visual delight. The buildings and the cars parked outside got a free water wash and they gleamed proudly in the first rays of dawn. I was coming back after a trot to satisfy myself of taking the first step to winning a marathon, and yes, also to reduce my three digit weight to two. A strange thought crossed my mind when I carefully avoided the tiny pool formed on the road. In addition to washing the dust off the buildings, the rains could also wash away the fat within ou body. That will be super cool. Eat all the pizzas and cheese you like and just take a walk in the rain, bingo! You would be back to shape. Before I quipped over the fancy idea, another fact tormented my thoughts. Even after tweaking the poverty line much to the satisfaction of the congress government, the data released by the planning commission showed a majority of Indians much below the poverty line. Those people’s leftover fat is probably from the parle-G biscuits they consume to compensate their breakfast, and often lunch and often dinner too. Wishing rain to wash the fat within would be most cruel, even in fantasy. Or, may be air could do that. Unlike the water droplets, the air around is continuous and homogenous. They can absorb the fat from people like me and spread it to the deprived to maintain their density.

Oops, the Maruti around the hostel road corner honked and pulled me out of my strange ideas about cholesterol compensation. Walking further down the road, I encountered the first pleasing sight of a rainy day, few peacocks carefully lifting their long feathers were crossing the small road. I was reminded of the beautiful ladies of Trivandrum clad in their long skirts and carefully walking with a small umbrella to the bus stop. I know that it’s an improper metaphor of mixing genders in comparison. But, to my defense, I compared only the feathers of a peacock to skirts, which is acceptable in Kerala as both men and women wear the same dhotis.

Gazing above, I noticed the tree under which the peacocks stood. The tree was old and its tired eyes sunk underneath its scaly trunk lacked enthusiasm albeit the cool drizzle. The disinterested tree resembled a government employee in a socialistic regime, which despite its lofty ideals promote mediocracy through the bureaucracy. Perhaps in its youth, like Oliver Twist, the tree could have asked Mr.Bumble of heaven, the Varuna god “please give me some more rain”. It takes a lot of time to realize that no Bumbles anywhere gives more. Imbibing the remnant wetness around it into its xylem, the tree  closed its eyes perhaps for a lazy reverie.

Priya’ tea brimming on the porcelain mug leaving concentric circular stains on the glass table was ready when I reached home. The reddish mud coloured tea synchronised with the rain outside. I remember back home, the rains added an aroma to the tea’s flavor, or is it only an imagination that the tea tasted bland, or is it that Priya can’t make interesting tea (oops, I dare not tell it to her, she’s too proud about her tea making skill, though she needn’t ). Nevertheless, I gulped carelessly and soon left to office.

The mudguards spoiled my trousers by the time I reached office and the corridors were already muddy. Cursing the rain and those who came before me to soil the corridors, I reached my office room carefully. The long corridor gave me a lot of time to curse the Delhi’s emotionless water puking rain. The simultaneous nostalgia of childhood rains increased the pitch of curses in my mind. I settled down in my monitor slamming the door against the rain. I casually searched google images for “Trivandrum rains” to change my desktop wallpaper.

இராமனைக் காதலி

போரெனின் அரியெனச் சீறி வெல்லும்
பேராண்மைத் தசரதன் குலத்து மாணிக்கம்,
கம்பன்தன் தமிழ் வரிகட்கும் எட்டாத
ஒப்பற்ற அழகன், அவன்தன் விரிமார்
விரித்துப் பருத்த தோளில் கோதண்டம்
தரித்துப் புவனம் வலம்வருவது காணின்
உருகித் தன்னிலை மறக்காதோருளரோ !
அரக்கர் குலச்செம்மல் சிரம் பத்துடையோன்
அருமைத் தமக்கை பாவி சூர்ப்பணகை
இராமனைக் கண்ட கணத்தில் மோகித்து
கரியுரு தவிர்த்து மாயவுரு எடுத்தது
பிழையென மொழிவீரோ ? இவ்வுலகு யாக்கை
இழந்தபின் மாலன் மடிசேர் நல்வினைசெய்
ஆழ்வாரும் அவியுணவு உண்ணும் தேவரும்
ஆழ்கடல் குதித்துப் பார்மகள் காத்தப்
பிழையிலாப் பரந்தாமன் திருமேனி கண்டு
தொழுதொழுகி நிற்பாரே ! நிகரில்லா மானுடன்
இராமன் உருக்கண்டு உருகிய
இராவணன் சோதரி பழிப்பதும் சரியோ ?

ஒருத்தி மணாளனாய்க் கடவேனென
விரதம் பூண்ட உத்தமனை, வில்லொடித்த
பராக்கிரமனை மணமுடித்தனள் சீதை,
வடிவில் சிறந்தவள், கருணை நிறைந்தவள்
வீரத்தில் கொண்டவனுக்கு நிகரவள் ,
வைராக்கியத்தில் வைரமவள், எனினும்
மாரீசனின் சதி தெளியா வெகுளியவள்.
இந்திரன் நடுங்கும் இராவணனை வெறும்
நாணலில் நாணச் செய்த பத்தினி ,
அவள் மணந்ததாலன்றோ அழகருள்
அழகனாம் இராமனை சூர்பணகையோ
இன்னபிற பெண்டிரோ ஆசையாய்த் தழுவி
இன்புற இயலாது தவித்தனர், எவர்க்கும்
என்றும் அவன் காதலிக்கும்
அன்னைச் சீதைமேல் இல்லையோ வெகுளியும் !

ஐயகோ ! ஐயகோ ! என்செய்தேன் யான்
உய்வுண்டோ இந்தப் பாவிக்கும்,
உத்தமி சீதையை , அந்தப் பரந்தாமன்
பத்தினியைப் பழிக்கவும் துணிந்தனனோ ?
அமுதூறும் பாற்கடலில் அயர்ந்துறங்கும்
நிமலன் மாலன் நெஞ்சில் நிறைந்தோளே ,
மாதவன் போற்றும் தூயநின் பேரின்பக்
காதலும், பிழைத்த அரக்கியின் மோகமும்
ஒன்றென்றெண்ணி கவிதையும் காவியவும்,
என்போல் அறிவிலிகள் நிரம்பக் குவிப்பர் !
ஒருக்கால், கண்ணனை  ஒறுத்த சிசுபாலனும்
பரமபதம் எய்திய பழங்கதை கேட்டதில்
பிறந்த திமிரோ நானறியேன் , அண்டம்
நிறைந்த அச்சுதனை நின்போல் நெஞ்சம்
உருகியுருகிக் காதலிக்கும் சூத்திரத்தை,
மறையுரைக்கும் மந்திரத்தை , நின்னடியார்
அறிந்த சத்தியத்தை,   மெள்ள
மறுமுறை என் செவியுணர இசைப்பாயோ !

The Rosewood elephant- A short story

imagesThe Rosewood elephant 

The list of things that fascinated a young lad of early sixties growing up in southern Tamilnadu was not long. While trains and aeroplane marks its compulsory presence in any kid’s list, some items are specific to geography and time. For instance, visiting the only known skyscraper, the 15-storeyed LIC building in Chennai, was in the bucket list of most of my friends. The childish innocence that meticulously built that list might have long gone. Yet, some portion of the list trickles down and merges with you, making it a part of the self that you might ignore it had actually come from a kid’s list.

I might have been 7 years old when I accompanied my thatha (grandfather) to his friend’s house. In their drawing room, welcoming the guests stood a majestic wooden elephant.  One look, and I was stunned. While wooden elephants are quite common in houses, the sheer beauty of that majestic elephant posing right at the entrance, standing peacefully on a corner table and staring silently was a bolt out of the blue moment for me. It was huge in size, probably my waist high and the magnificent gleam of the polished solid rosewood elephant revealing its beautiful grain pattern was alluring.

Whenever we visited Suchindram temple (one of the famous temples in Kanyakumari district), it was a ritual to get the blessings of the temple elephant, a symbol of the supreme lord Ganesha. I remember very well approaching the holy elephant with a little fear and a lot of excitement. The beast stood calm beneath the tiny mahout. I dared to touch it. The elephant was used to so many people and extended its warmth by looking for a hidden banana under my shirt. The tip of its huge trunk brushed along the back of my neck. God, its wrinkled skin really hurt. I wished I could warn all the people around never to believe the tourism photographs showing smiling faces of people hugging an elephant.

But the wooden elephant I was looking at was nothing like that. My hands traced the grain pattern on its belly with awe, pinched its stiff ears and reached its tusk- a cute little wooden polished nail painted in white and carefully inserted into a tiny slot, a fitting example of fine workmanship. My grandfather recognized the potential future damage to the tiny tusk and dragged me by my collar to his side.

Probably every kid has a fantasy for elephants. When occasionally elephants visit our village as a part of some festival, the kids run around the elephant all the time. The mahouts let us feed the elephant if we gave him raw rice and jaggery. When he brings the elephant to the river for a bath and then decorates its forehead with coloured chalk pieces, we used to hang around and form a procession until the elephant reached the temple ground.

However, the love I felt on that particular day at my grandfather’s friend’s house embracing that shiny rosewood elephant was something unique.  I did not know whether other kids of my age cared so much for the wooden elephants. In fact, I cared not to know, for I took this obsession as highly personal and my ego didn’t want me to share the craze for wooden elephants with anyone. I feared even to discuss with my friends. I guess I probably might have been upset, had I known that such a craze for wooden elephants was actually not uncommon.

I thought of asking my parents to get me a new wooden elephant. Unlike today, parents of those days had too little money and too many kids to share it with. For instance, one never got a new shirt until you outgrew your shirt. There were no air-conditioned showrooms selling expensive imported toys. And even if the town had, not a single toy might have been sold out. The only toys we had were those that were made from coconut shells and from the remnant pieces of the village’s carpenter. So, to ask my parents for a new wooden elephant actually required a lot of courage. It took me more than two years before I went to my father. Appa was eating then. Appa doesn’t like to talk while eating. So, when I mustered enough courage to ask clearing my throat, Amma hushed and motioned me to keep quiet, giving Appa his tranquil moments of supper. I went to the next room and waited till Appa finished his dinner. My ears were attentive catching every minute disturbance around Appa. My ears traced Appa’s footsteps to backyard. The old brass mug released air bubbles gulping water when dipped into the stone water tank. Then I heard Appa’s gargle. My ears were tuned like an antenna. I even heard the sound of the sand particles dropping from his foot when he wiped his feet in the doormat. I was waiting in the corner near his ‘vettalai chellam’ (an old brass box to store betel leaves). He opened the box and picked a couple of betel leaves. His breathing was loud to me. He looked at me quizzically. I mumbled “Elephant”. Seeing his face expressions, I knew that I had told something that’s worth reprimanding. Yet, my love for that gorgeous rosewood elephant passed me some courage to ask again. Feeble, yet clear came the request from me, “Appa, I would like to have a wooden elephant”.

By then Appa had already settled in the easy chair with his ‘vettalai chellam’. I knew well that he would be in a reverie then and it was not for my good to brood the topic further. I wasn’t actually frustrated; not getting something one desired for is nothing unusual for a middle class family of 60’s and 70’s. I knew this reality factually after several years of adulthood later. However, unlike the sports shoes and toy train which I wanted badly and hadn’t asked out of fear, this episode on wooden elephant is better. At least, I had the satisfaction of making a representation. Nobody at that time was capable of understanding the peer pressure a kid faces. At school, when we were sitting under the neem tree the previous week for lunch, Gopal was talking a lot about his toy train his uncle got him from Singapore. No one believed him when he said that he actually went to the railway station and his uncle took him inside the steam engine. “Wow Gopal, how lucky you are”, I exclaimed. God, this damn Gopal should die soon, else he would enjoy everything that kids can only dream of. I looked around and could sense the same feeling floating in the air beneath the innocent smiles of my friends around. People never understood that a kid needed things to tackle the Gopals around them. I secretly thought that this rosewood elephant was my gateway to boost my status in lunch group. I did not belong to the ‘Gopal’ group. Rather, I belonged to the rest of the common folk kids. So, any achievement of anyone in this common group is the victory of the group against that idiot born with silver spoon.

When I slept that night, I was confused whether Appa actually heard me. I had just mumbled twice and clear, “wooden elephant”. But there was no reaction from him. No! His eyelids didn’t move, nor did he get up from his easy chair and there were no hand signs to gesture disapproval. This emotional struggle went on for three nights and then I forgot. After about two weeks, when I came home from school, I traced the fragrance of peanuts being fried in kitchen. That was Appa’s salary day. Appa liked peanuts a lot. During a merry family moment between tea and peanuts, I had learnt that Appa buys a kilogram of raw peanuts on every salary day. On some solitary moments these days, when I think about the past, I used to wonder about this and felt that the pittance he earned for his qualification then was symbolical to say that he actually worked for peanuts.

After his tea, he opened his bag and gave me a small piece wrapped in an old newspaper. I was surprised at this unusualness and curiously opened the pack to find a cuboid of about three inches. A solid piece of wood. I was puzzled. As I turned the block on the otherside, I noticed some scratches, as if someone have scribbled with a nail. On careful scrutiny I realized that those scribblings possibly with a nail actually was a crude drawing of an elephant. I suspected that Appa himself took a piece of wood and hurriedly scratched it with a nail. I still didn’t understood why he gave me this piece of wood. Slowly, after the tea turned cold, it dawned to me that this was the wooden elephant Appa has got me. I had in fact forgotten the episode of asking him. I was speechless. I didn’t know what to do. Should I be happy that Appa actually listened to me that day? Or should I be upset that this ugly piece of abandoned wood was what in store for me instead of the beautiful rosewood elephant. How would I even talk about it in our lunch group? I was thoroughly disappointed. But again, unlike these days, parents of those days didn’t work too much on child psychology. When I see my daughter Sheela discussing so much when buying a small piece of toy or a t-shirt for my grandson Varun, am Appalled that parents take so much stress about kids. In fact, I told Sheela that she is spoiling Varun. She gave me an hour long bull-shit of child psychology against my will. She perhaps should also read something about geriatric psychology.

That was my second sleepless night that month. What should I do with this piece Appa had bought? It’s actually a disgrace to the beautiful elephant I loved. Now, when I think about it, I try hard to recollect my exact emotions, and wonder whether I had any sympathy for Appa acknowledging his sweetness for remembering what I had mumbled. But, I don’t remember any such feeling. I, in fact, was constantly thinking about getting rid of it, to throw it in the firewood stove next morning. But Appa’s wrath, if discovered, demotivated me from such drastic measures. The rosewood elephant got sunk as a quicksand within myself that night. I hadn’t known then that the yearning desire for rosewood elephant was not easy to get rid of.

Years passed and as I completed B.Sc chemistry in Hindu college, the eighties had lot of new changes in it for me. I started wearing a neck tie and shoes for the first time. Within a couple of years I got transferred to Bombay. Soon, I even discarded dhoti for pyjamas at night. The casual conversational acknowledgment in Tamil, ‘oho, cheri cheri’ (ஓஹோ  சரி சரி !) got replaced with Hindi’s ‘achcha’. Apart from these important changes, I also got married to Gayathri and we together brought Sheela to this world.

Gayathri is from Trivandrum and we have a long practice since our marriage to have a compulsory south Indian trip every year, of course to Gayathri’s home in Trivandrum and if time permits, a brief, very very brief visit to my ancestral house. During our Trivandrum visit we never miss the famous Shri Padmanabhaswamy temple. I remember our first trip to the temple together very clearly. As we crossed the ‘Padma theertham’ (temple tank) on our right, past the navarathri temple on the left, gazing the ‘metha mani’ the famous clock, I was suddenly under a jolt. I felt like getting up from a long coma and looking around asking “where am I? It was the rosewood elephant that I had long forgotten, but which was carefully adorned in a corner of my heart without my knowledge. It was innocently staring at me from the handicrafts shop. I could see it clearly now, the exact same replica, the exact height, the exact shine, the exact beautiful wood grain pattern, it was as if the same elephant which I fell in love with once. Concerned Gayathri asked me timidly “what happened?” I showed the elephant and asked her whether we could buy it. She was surprised for a moment. Then she slowly came with me to the shop and looked at the price tag. I didn’t look at the price. My eyes were fixed on the elephant, its sheer beauty and its majestic silence. With a flicker in my eyes, I looked at Gayathri and enthusiastically exclaimed “let’s buy this”. I didn’t get a response that supported my enthusiasm. Gayathri pursed her lips and smirked. That was our first year of marriage and I almost loved everything she did. Gosh! I can’t believe now that I even enjoyed her silly body language like her twisting her nose when she gets irritated. But I have to admit that it doesn’t look so ugly when Sheela does it.

Standing in front of Padmanabha swamy temple with the rosewood elephant beside me, I couldn’t decipher the meaning of her smirk. Was it an amusing acknowledgement appreciating my craziness with love or was it the thought- wondering why she married a crackpot like me. I still do not know the meaning, but I knew immediately that it was not a favourable smirk. She slowly walked away and started looking around other things in the shop. I got the cue. I accompanied her to the temple and walked home empty handed with a heavy heart. Why? Why did I not protest her? That was a wonderful opportunity to behold my beloved rosewood elephant. I consoled myself that I atleast then knew where I could find the elephant and thought that I could slowly convince her.

Years passed and soon Sheela too became a part of the gang. Every year the ritual followed when going to Padmanabhaswamy temple. Second year Gayathri affectionately told me, “not now dear, later for sure”. Gayathri was and is still beautiful when she is affectionate. I was too fragile in front of her love. Next year she said “should we need it urgently now? Our furniture and curtains are still pending. Once we finish all our important purchase, we shall think about it”. After all, she had a point and I yielded. Next year Sheela’s school admission was more important than the elephant. And in the later years Sheela’s music classes, housing loan, gold chit for Sheela’s marriage etc flooded. There never seemed to be a dearth of reasons from Gayathri why that elephant was not important. All along, the elephant and I exchanged secret glances promising each other to meet next year. Every vacation I thought that I would be coming back to Bombay with my rosewood elephant but every vacation ended with the hope that the beautiful moment would come next year. I was not tired of bringing this every year. Finally Gayathri gave up giving reasons. She simply said, “Are you a kid? Are you not ashamed?” and walked briskly into the temple leaving me and my elephant alone outside. I knew that my chances were bleak, but I whispered into the elephant’s ears “don’t worry, I will come soon to fetch you”. The elephant seemed to have understood me. I sensed a small smile under its trunk near its tusk.

Sheela got married to Ashok and soon Varun came to our life. These days kids are different. I don’t understand half of what he says. He is not interested in ‘Chandamama’ and doesn’t want to hear Ramayana and Mahabharata stories. I was appalled. But Gayathri and Sheela weren’t. They behaved as if they were born along with him. They speak his language and discuss about some lousy cartoon characters. I can’t believe that any kid could hate ‘Vikam and Vedal’ stories. When I told this to Sheela, she again gave me another nonsense lecture that Varun belonged to a different generation. What rubbish is this? Didn’t she belong to a different generation when she was born? She used to jump when my Amma told her the mythological stories and would beg me to buy her ‘Chandamama’. I tend to distance myself from such thoughts.

When Varun was 7, we went to Trivandrum along with Sheela, Ashok and Varun. We walked past the ‘padma theertham’, ‘navarathri temple’ and ‘methamani’. My legs slowed. Varun was holding my hands. I yearningly looked at the rosewood elephant and slowly walked towards it. It was stunning to look at it gleaming its rosewood grain pattern under the dusky Trivandrum sunlight. I was awestruck and led Varun to the rosewood elephant. I took his hands and brushed the belly of the elephant and traced its trunk, pinched its ears and slowly touched the white polished tusk. This time the shop keeper cleared his throat to refrain me from any potential damage. When I stopped to explain and ask for the price, Varun left me and ran to Gayathri. To my dismay, he wasn’t interested. Really, Varun? You didn’t like it? How could you see this and still not fall in love? At his exact age, I was going crazy about this. More than the fact of not having an elephant, Varun’s lack of interest pained me more.

I looked back. Gayathri, Sheela, Ashok and Varun were looking at me. Gayathri’s face twitched near her jaw. I knew the meaning of every minute expression of Gayathri. She’s embarrassed. Perhaps, the scene I created there, or perhaps wondering what Ashok may think of me. The revised hope of going back to Bombay with Rosewood elephant became bleak. I looked back at the elephant. It seemed to understand my plight. Still its smile didn’t fade. Neither its beauty. I went inside the temple, looking back at the elephant for the hundredth time.

(Image courtesy : http://www.maalini.com/)

some abstract morning thoughts

I was walking to office today morning and gazed at the horizon far away. A picturesque border of mountains at the distance was faded by the clouds skirting above. I kept staring at them and walked steadily. An unusual discomfort eerily crept inside. Something wasn’t right. I looked around. God ! Nothing moved. The trees, some occasional flowers clinging to the branches, the green leaves, the buildings and its windows, even the tip of the grass blades bordering my trousers in the foot path; …….nothing moved. Yes !! really, nothing moved, not a sign of singing bee or irritating mosquito or the mourning earthworm. The whole world around me was frozen in time. Everything appeared to be standstill. The cars and buses moved as usual, but who cares about those noisy beasts?. In the strangeness of the still world, wondering the possibility of a frozen world, I walked forward. A complete sense of consciousness spread within. Every muscle fiber, nerves and every neuron inside the body seemed to be awake and surprised by this still world and stayed alert recording my solitary movement in this immobile world. All of a sudden, I felt strange to walk in this immobile world, its a weird but strong feeling that i was alone and i walked alone. The thought of loneliness spread faster than the Ebola virus. Oh god ! am alone and walking alone in this immobile world. Just then, a leaf fell down from the tree ahead tearing down my insane thoughts, the first movement nature willingly shared to spare me from freaking. It was a beautiful yellow leaf and it lay peacefully on the ground after living a full life, though unsure whether it was a happy life. The leaf seemed to whisper something. I bent down. The yellow leaf was pale and its veins showed dark like a fragile old woman. The withering leaf was frail in its whisper. I bent down to listen carefully. It slowly and carefully whispered, “Shut up and get back to your office. Its 9 already”.

Poor memory ?? what a bliss !!

I was thinking about what is the significant feature that catapults progress in human civilization. Is it our curious mind ? or progress in science, technology? Or our spiritual development? While brooding over some of these confusing topics, a thought sparked, expanded rapidly and was all pervasive like the bigbang which never allowed me to think anything else. The reason for progress is nothing but our ability to forget. Yes, without that the mechanism of progress stalls. Lets look at it from scientific and philosophical views. The progress in science and technology is always incremental in nature. Even the serendipitous discoveries like that of Einstein or Marie Curie have been backed up by incremental steps of thought process which one day reaches an avalanche limit. This incremental thought process or technical progress is impossible if all the knowledge is shoved in a single day. Imagine a situation when the whole knowledge you strive for is begot overnight. You then become an encyclopaedia as you probably have all the answers you needed. The process of forgetting and the need to get back to the basics often makes you read the same again and again and each time you look at it with a different level of understanding. Like one of my ex-boss told, learning is like a spiral staircase. You keep looking at the same point, but as you ascend, you look at it from different altitude. Similarly, the ability to understand what we seem to know needs the process of revisiting, which probably would not happen lest we don’t forget. Another aspect in the technical scenario is the constant change in our understanding. Except few very basic axioms, most of the concepts are continuously revised. Forgetting is a natural process of unlearning and relearning.

From social point of view, one may easily think about the situations where its essential to forget and forgive the past which had hurt us. But its not just the external people or surrounding one needs to forget. The most important fact is the necessity to forget our actions in the past, for we grow and mature by actions we regret and feel guilty of. If we cant forget, we will get sucked in the whirlpool of guilt and will never recover to swim past to new shores. And still the past sometimes pops, sometimes during the tranquil moments of deep sleep or sometimes during the busiest part of the day when the world around moves at a lightning speed. But the past thoughts will isolate us, freeze us in the past for a moment, wear us out with guilt and then let us forget it and proceed to progress. This occasional pops is only to remind us that we need to move forward and never back in our path.

What a sweet gift we possess; the ability to forget. To imagine a world without that appears scary. I forgot what I thought to write in conclusion. Oh god! But thanks that am able to forget. Lol

morning surprise

I got up today morning and still cuddling inside the warm bedsheet unwilling to hatch out of the night’s sleep, i opened my tablet to check my email.

 ‘Tamarindrice’- an online magazine has shortlisted one of my short stories to read out in their creative writing event. 

 Wow, thats fantastic, but wait.. how did they knew about my story ?? Apparently,i had sent this piece long back to many places. This online magazine had actually published that piece.. Hurray!, wat a fantastic morning. 

 The story is about the experience of first salary drawn by a middle class Gopal and the link below  

http://tamarindrice.in/tamarind-rice-october-13/

A bus ride I cant forgive…- A short story      

I was waiting for the bus to arrive. It was a pleasant Friday morning and Pohang’s small bus terminal registered sparse crowd at that early hour. The bus I was waiting for would take me to the nearest KTX, railway station, the fastest train network Korea boasts. The 6 A.M bus I was waiting for could comfortably reach the station in forty minutes, wedging a lavish 20 minutes cushion for the train to Seoul.

The nocturnal routine I had nurtured has always brought harm to me including that morning’s late alarm followed by last minute mad rush to the bus station. After a mere four hours sleep the previous night, I had to forcibly stretch my eyelids open to stay awake. I thought of washing the sleep out with caffeine and fumbled for coins standing near the vending machine. The vending machine delivers Korea’s best coffee at less than 10% the price of other Korean Coffee shops. Trust me, Korean coffee shop costs you gold’s worth for a mud like cappuccino. Seconds before I pressed the button, I retracted. Well, I had a solid four hours of journey ahead and why waste it by staying awake. I chuckled at my acumen with a small sense of pride “Smart boy, that’s well thought”, I patted myself and proceeded to the platform.

Despite the early hour, the bus was reasonably full and I took a seat in the middle. I politely smiled at the passenger in the seat behind before settling down. He enthusiastically smiled back, “Hello, Good morning”, Koreans love to share their little English with the people roaming around holding an Alien card. I greeted back with a complimentary smile.

Indo  Saram?”, he asked.

Two years in the land of Kimchi prepares you to identify Indian as Indosaram and I enthusiastically replied,  “Nei,  Indosaram”(Yes, am indian). He knew no more English and neither did I anymore Korean.  That set our boundary safe and I was ready to offer my prayers to the goddess of sleep.

‘Click’ I heard a sound from the rear seat, followed by a continuous chewing sound. I did not know the exact source, but my friendly neighbour was eating something, or chewing something. It was not a gum or any other standard toffees we may think of chewing at 6’o clock in a bus, but a noisy substance which was cracking continuously.

I tried to ignore and sleep. But the noise was so irritable and it sounded exactly like what you hear when your dentist works on bridging a decayed tooth. I flinched when I thought about the root-canal and dental bridge I had last summer. Oh ! that was a free tour to hell except the good looking dentist who might have been mistakenly included in the tour package. Ahh ! ‘click’ again.. This time my tooth long forgotten under the bridge ached. Slowly the frequency of the ‘clicks’ increased. Was he doing it in purpose to irritate me? Whatever damn stuff he was chewing, he seemed to enjoy and went non-stop.

It was only five minutes and I started losing my nerves already. I looked behind for other seats. Unfortunately, most of them were filled. But, even if it were empty, I might have hesitated. I might have worried “Oh ! What will he think about me if I leave? Isn’t insulting?”. I closed my eyes instead and hoped that the crackling won’t bother me when the bus starts. Engine noise would over-power these non-stop clicks. Soon, the driver entered and i cheerfully awaited for the bus to start. As he switched on the engine, the light tremor brought some happiness momentarily, but the click overtook it. The bus hadn’t started yet and i was sure then that the clicks would stop bothering me soon. And the bus slowly departed, still between the audible ‘click’s from behind and with infinite hopes within. The bus slowly took a reverse, paused, hissed through the brakedrum and smoothly entered the road. Alas !! There came the ‘click’, this time louder. The engine hummed dull and the bus was noiseless. I suddenly missed my Leyland engines in India. I could have handled 10 such people behind me with just one of those noisy beast engines.

And there he goes!! The clicks were in new vigour. Probably he too was waiting for the bus to start, for his clicks sounded enthusiastic. What the hell was he chewing so hard?? Steel !! may be. I will believe if somebody excavates some stainless steel toffees from his mouth. Or may be he had metallic braces. Whatever be it, it wasn’t funny and I was fighting my temper. I felt like slapping him; slap him hard enough to get rid of those metal junk from his stupid mouth. I shut my eyes and plugged my ears, hoping the noise to cease, or atleast subside. But the more I tried to get rid of it, more was its closeness. The noise grew loud with determination. It felt like being in a cycle race when your adrenalin pumps detecting the jerky sounds from the sprockets of the cycles behind. No !!, I was not for a race. I just needed some peaceful sleep.

The clicks were increasing. Oh, please stop. Don’t you have mercy, I started pleading. I sensed the sadist mocking cruelly with his never ending clicks. Just in that helpless moment, I remembered a trick to sleep my mother had taught me as a kid. “Its simple”, she had said, “Recite ‘rama rama’ continuously and you will sleep soon”. The trick had worked before my recitation began with a nee ray of hope.

“Rama rama rama”<click click>. Oh stop please ! Again, “Rama rama rama”, <clicks> “rama rama” <click> “rama “<click>

Huh ! Go to hell. I looked at the watch, we had 15 more minutes. I decided to stay awake. Just 15 more minutes to freedom before I can sleep comfortably in the korea’s fastest KTX train.

The bus stopped and few passengers got in. Even in the state of agony I was in, it was a delight to watch the glamorous Korean ladies in short mini-skirts parading the elegantly on that morning bus. Thanks to the Korean summer, it had brought out the miniskirts (or microskirts) from the ladies wardrobe. One of the girls looked like the famous Korean actress Kim, Tae Hee. Well, that’s not uncommon in Korea; one just need to go to Seoul, dump a lot of cash, undergo some horribly painful surgery and distort your face to match Kim Tae Hee or anyone you wish. I won’t be surprised if one of these plastic surgeons gets to be in the list of top billionaires of Korea.

The girl walked in, paused near me and looked at both the rows on either side. There were two empty seats, one of which was next to mine. She hesitated not a second and went to the other row. Why ??? Why did you do that? What’s wrong with me? I looked at her again. She was indeed good looking girl with at least 7 layers of makeup wearing a short, very short skirt stretching taut over her waxed slender legs. Next to her sat an ugly Korean guy in Pink trousers (yes guys have a crazy taste for their apparel colours here). I could sense his silent grin, mocking me that the girl chose him over me. Perhaps, he might not know that it’s not new for me to be ignored by a girl, that too a hot girl in a miniskirt and I pitied his ignorance.

The diversion didn’t do any good, the clicks continued non-stop from behind. By then it had picked up a rhythm in synchronous with the silent engine. Yet the rhythm was intolerable. ‘Click …… Click…….Click……’ and it went on.

Will you please stop this for heaven’s sake? You ought to have better use with your goddamn teeth than chewing metal pebbles.

Pebbles ! yeah, may be he was biting some marble pebbles. I have known few of my friends in kindergarten doing this, but never in my lifetime could I appreciate it. Believe me, I tried once and It was not funny.

I looked outside. It was a warm and beautiful morning. Korean landscape is worth skipping the sleeping, though not by penance of haunting clicks from behind. I had become numb to the irritating clicks. Thanks to his tireless effort of chewing for 40 minutes, the bus came to a stop. I got down and smiled to him thankfully. Yes, the scriptures advise us to love our enemies isn’t ? Well, I had no gun, he escaped with a smile.

I walked briskly to the station enjoying my newly attained morning freedom. I bought the ticket to Seoul and in 20 minutes, the KTX train halted with a hiss. I had a window seat. I eagerly looked out hoping another hot Korean girl to occupy the adjacent empty seat. Come on girls, you can’t ditch a poor single guy forever. But destiny has got a strange humour, guess who came and sat..??? ‘Click…. Click…….Click…..’

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