Some Things That Never Change

As I sip my evening tea, seated next to the window of my drawing room, I notice a group of children playing in the adjacent car park. This group, comprising of boys of all ages and sizes, and also two girls, indulge themselves in sports, such as, football and cricket.

The chattering group seem to enjoy playing, running hither and thither, cheating and fighting; bring forth every bit of the innocence that is common to kids and which, everyone had undergone in their own childhood.

Although much of today’s generation is indulged in electronic gaming, with their little heads almost dipping into their hand held devices, it was a refreshing feeling to see these kids playing in the Sun. I felt if I could join them for a game or two, but then, a momentary worry caught my attention. Not that whether they would include me in their sport, but, I was feeling uneasy, because, all my playful emotions have now been surpassed, and I felt I would not be of my enthusiastic self.

I believe childhood is one fantasy, which we spend like a beautiful dream and enjoy at best, and which exhausts so suddenly that all memories of it is lost in a way, that we no longer will be successful to stitch together, the now scattered dreams.

I faintly remembered my childhood at that instance. Every summer vacation, we used to travel to Mangalore with a cricket bat. My cousin brother used to wait for us for hours, and as soon as we reach home, I used to brandish the bat in the air, showing him the bat, and immediately we used to play cricket in our verandah, even without bothering to change our clothes. The occasion used to be vociferous, aggressive and joyous. And play, we used to, from dawn to dusk, and the next day till our vacations were finally over that we did not care a dime for other earthly activities.

Then, there was our house owner’s son in Hyderabad, a big bully, who used to boss at almost everything that he wished for. During Sankranthi, almost the entire city used to fly kites. The big bully would have his own arsenal of kites and would swear at us that he would rip our kites, if we were not going to help him in smearing powdered (tube light) glass on the kites’ chords.

Sankranthi was also a war of sorts between kite fliers of neighboring buildings and also a rare occasion when the big bully used to gel with us. It was usually a battle between kids of our building and the neighboring buildings. On such occasions, allies are formed and strategies discussed. He used to be our Don Quixote and I was his personal squire Sancho Panza (I mean, to hold the chord as he used to fly his kite). There was excellent camaraderie and chivalry, as we used to fly our kites. We used to cheer as we cut through the other kites and used to moan when our kite went down. The entire locality used to thrive with kids, flying their kites and running to catch the kites that were cut.

It was gladdening to see that these emotions are inherent to kids of even this generation, irrespective of whether there is an electronic equipment or gaming system that would steal away these top memories of their childhood.

Even during our time, we had the ‘Idiot box’ or the Television set. Apart from the normal kiddo cartoon episodes, such as, Spiderman, Jungle Book etc., we also craved to watch good serials, such as, Mr. Yogi, Vikram aur Betal etc. Although, my parents were strict with the timings to allow us to watch the TV, I (who was scared to switch-on the TV set myself) used to secretly indicate to my kid brother using my eyes about the start of a serial. My innocent brother used to switch-on the TV and face the brunt of my parents, and I used to escape.

But despite this interest in watching the TV, we were more keen to play in the outside. It is, of course, the encouragement of our parents and the same seems to happen even now, indicating that certain things do not change despite the changing times.

If nature has given us such a beautiful dream called ‘Childhood’, then, let us understand that the child should be allowed to enjoy it, to its maximum. By allowing them to play in the sun and the wind, roll in the dust, we should be the driving force of tomorrow’s children so that they live this dream.

On Trodden Paths

Kannur or Cannanore, is a coastal town in the Southern Indian state of Kerala. I was born there and hence, I hold a special attachment to that place.

Kannur is known for its handloom industry and its various traditional rituals, still prevailing in modern times, and giving us a feeling of how small towns are a tad slow to be intimidated by the modern world.

While most Indians jest Kerala, as being a land of lungis, I have seen a transition in the mindset of young Keralites, who now prefer Denim Jeans and Corduroy trousers over the easy wearing lungi (despite its new avatar of Velcro and Pocket lungis) and therefore, adding the lungi clad men in the list of endangered species.

Speaking of the place, Kannur is home to several age-old temples, such as, the Kadalayi and the Parassini-kadavu temples.

I had been to the Parassini-kadavu temple with one of my friend, a Bengali, and who was so keen to visit the small towns of India that I took him to my place on our next visit. It is a famous temple, whose primary deity is Muthappan, a widely regarded, powerful God in Kannur.

Although, I’am a Malayali (native of Kerala) by birth, I do not know much about the local traditions, because I was brought-up elsewhere in India. Hence, me and my Bengali friend were total strangers in the temple. My friend was the most affected (as the traditions of North India varied by the extremes) and was a perplexed lot by the strange customs. He even had difficulty when the priest offered him the holy vermilion. It was a comical situation. He protruded his head forward, expecting that the priest would smear the vermilion on his forehead (as customary to the North Indian temples), but, that did not happen, and both seem to stare at each other, questioning their stance. I later informed him that most temples in Kerala, offered the vermilion by hand, rather than smearing it on the fore-head.

We had come at a good time, as the temple was performing a Muthappan Theyyam, a ritual involving Muthappan, who is a representative of Lord Shiva, and who is believed to fulfill the wishes of the devotees.

Muthappan is home to the people of Kannur alone, and is worshipped only at the Parassini-kadavu and Kunathoor  Pady temples.

The Parassini temple is special, as it is the only temple that offers non-vegetarian offerings (Dried fish and toddy) during the festival season. Legend says that Muthappan was always accompanied by a dog and therefore, the temple authorities has sculpted an idol of a dog at the entrance of the temple. We saw dogs wandering inside the temple premises and it is said that, till date, there were no attacks caused to human beings by these creatures.

I had witnessed the Theyyam, on a couple of occasions. It is a part of the local tradition and is conducted only once, at a specific time of the year. The start of this ritual commences after the Pooja at Kotiyoor temple and the last Theyyam is conducted at Kalarivathukkal Bhagavathy temple.

It is believed that the Kalarivathukkal Bhagavathy derived its name from the ancient martial art form Kalaripayattu, as the Goddess Bhagavathy was considered as the mother of this martial art.

While the Muthappan Theyyam is dedicated to Lord Shiva, there are other Theyyams, dedicated to other forms of the Lord, and which are not conducted at the temple premises, but, at a Kavu (a piece of land as sacred as the temple premise).

The ritual is performed from dusk till dawn and is attended by numerous devotees (including Western tourists), who spend their time watching the performance.

Kannur is lustrously green, in fact, almost the entire Kerala belt is a vast-stretch of green carpet. You could see wild shrubbery all around (peer your eyes and you could find more greenery) and the walls are still covered with lichens. This greenery coupled with the monsoon rains is a real treat for people from the city. The tiny droplets of water falling from tree-tops, tiled roof-tops; the red muddy channels of flowing rainwater on roadsides, children playing in muddy puddles; the occasional peep of the sun and then, the rainbow introduces an euphoric experience to one and all.

A little mention on St. Angelo Fort, one of the well preserved forts of the country. Built by the first Portuguese Viceroy of India, Dom Francisco de Almeida, it portrays the glory and the charm of an old European citadel. I like this fort, because it faces the vast Arabian Sea on one-side and you could actually walk on its ramparts and enjoy the warm sea breeze. This fort is protected under the Archaeological Survey of India.

I had been to India’s longest drive-in beach, the Muzhapillangad Beach. This beach in Kannur is about 5.5 kms in length and is considered amongst the top six beaches in the world for driving. Once could see many bikers enjoying their evenings, performing stunts and taking snaps with their crazy postures. There is also one Dharmadam Island, just across the beach. At low tides, people could walk in the knee-deep waters towards the island.

There are other notable beaches in Kannur, the most famous one being the Payyambalam beach. But, I prefer the calm Chaal beach. It is a pretty little beach, always isolated, and I last went there with my wife, my brother (cousins included) and the Bengali friend. Upon seeing the beach and its serenity, the youngsters immediately removed their shirt and trousers, and hurled themselves in the sea for bath and sport, whereas, me and my wife had a long walk.

We all know that Keralites love their coconuts and majority of their cuisines are prepared using the coconut oil. Coconut oil is well known for its digestive abilities and is also considered good enough to be consumed by an infant.  The dish I like the most is fried Sardine or Mathi and I’am a pampered lot by my in-laws who treat me with my favourite dish and many others, on each visit. I think being in Kerala, you are treated with the best fish dishes in the world for that matter.

There is much to explore this beautiful town and I shall write more about it after my next visit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I Flew…

I’am chicken-hearted when it comes to travelling by aeroplanes. The mere mention of flying would send waves of shivers to my spine. I had flown before, on two occasions, both domestic and short distance travels. But, this time it was different. I was supposed to travel to Dubai on work and that only meant a long distance travel, and on my nemesis.

I was thrilled from the outside that I was travelling to a foreign land. But inside, it was the opposite. I had my own fears.

Since I’am not a frequent flier, I knew little less about the formalities that one had to follow at the airport. So, I had one of my colleagues write and send me an email about it. To my surprise, he mailed me a detailed (procedural) instruction on what one needs to do during departure and also on arrival at Dubai. I was mighty pleased and immediately took a print out of the instruction sheet (A two page manuscript it was).

Although I was busy most of the days, my primal fear of flying somehow seemed to creep in from nowhere. My fear was a plane crash and I know it is a dreaded thought, even as I write this.

I stopped reading newspapers or watch the news for the rest of the days, in the fear that there would be news on some kind of an air crash which would demotivate me. To make things worse the TV aired the movie Neerja. On any other day, I would have watched such a good movie, but now, the story of that movie was an add-on fear.

My fears kept haunting me and I finally decided to speak to my wife and mother about it. With the best choice of words, I explained them that I was scared of flying and the fear of me dying in the event of an air crash was bothering me. That was comical and silly at the same time, and they both roared to laughter.

They assured me that nothing of that sort would happen as flights were one of the safest means of travel and if fate has destined such an occurrence, then, we cannot change it. This assurance somewhat alleviated my fears and I was back to normal, partly though.

The day of my journey finally arrived. I ensured that my instruction sheet was tucked in my pocket. I remembered to pray God and promised Him that I would visit the nearby temples on safe return. That was one way of assuring myself that I would return back safely. That done, I got into the car and almost forgot to wave at my mother.  My wife as always, was confident, and seeing that I decided to curb my fears. Maybe they were right after all that I need not fear that much. I decided to surrender myself to fate.

Luckily for me another colleague of mine were travelling in the same flight. I called him and he informed me that he would arrive at the airport on time. A company is always good in such occasions.

As I arrived at the airport, I took out my favorite possession and studied the first instruction. It said ‘Show your passport and ticket to the policeman at the entrance’. The instruction was word perfect and things went exactly as it was scripted. I was beginning to feel like a mercenary with a mission, as in movies.

The second instruction read “Go to the designated counter and submit your passport and baggage. Receive the boarding pass’. I was about to search for the counter, when an airport security staff asked me to go to the security counter to have the baggage scanned. This step was missing in my instruction sheet and I lost my faith on it.

After the baggage check I went to the counter and received my boarding pass. At this point, I decided to wait for my colleague. What if I had to undergo another unknown process which was not listed in the instruction sheet.

My colleague arrived on time. We shook hands and I remained calm. I made sure to show-off that I was not referring to any instruction sheet and informed him in a confident voice that I had collected my boarding pass. To my disappointment, he did not for see anything and went to collect his own boarding pass.

Post immigration control we sat at the gate for infinity. I was beginning to feel nervous again, so, I called my wife who gave me another dose of assurance. But as the time was nearing to board the plane, my fears were starting to become more immune to any form of assurance.

The announcement was made to board the plane and we walked towards it. I looked at my colleague just hoping that he too was nervous, but, he just smiled back at me.

Inside the plane, me and my colleague were offered different seats. He was seated somewhere in the back where I could not run and reach him on an event of any danger. To add to my already worse situation, I was given a window seat.

A fat lady sat beside me, squeezing her bulky frame in the seat. Helpless I sat quietly in my seat. Finally, the plane moved and I started my prayers. I closed my eyes and clenched my fists during take-off and once in the air I just glanced outside the window. It was a scary sight, to look at the landscape below. The earth circled around in front of my eyes and I decided to pull the shutter of my window, but, the fat lady was already peering through it, almost over me. So, I decided not to close it as it might offend her.

This was a day flight and if it was this scary, I began to wonder how it was like flying in the night.

My nerves calmed once we were above the clouds. By now I had no fear or any sort of feeling. I was numb. I began to wonder if I were already dead. I looked beside me and the fat lady was munching on some cookies of an unknown brand.

Admist all the chaos, I was experiencing this new found sense of calmness. From where did that come from? Maybe it was the aftermath of fear. There was a growing sense of pride, because, I thought I had overcome my fear, and why not, I was thousands of feet above the ground with nothing but the airplane’s base separating me and the ground below. A sudden turbulence would then bring me back to my apprehensive state.

Time began to crawl and since I had nothing to do, I decided to take a nap. The next time I was awake was when the flight attender announced to us that we were reaching Dubai. I woke up and looked around as if to assure that I was still in the plane. Everyone were peering outside their windows. I gathered some courage and looked outside and it was an awesome sight. The towering buildings and the modern landscape was wonderful to look at.

We finally landed (safely for me) and I bid adieu to my colleague. I chuckled at the thought that all the while my colleague hardly knew about this fearful disposition of mine. I slung my backpack and walked outside the airport where another colleague of mine were to receive me.

It is still laughable when I think about it, and as of today I have somehow overcome my fear to a certain percentage. Perhaps there is nothing to fear after all.

 

Reviving my long lost interests

Pencil Sketch

To start with, let me say that I was always good at art. “Pencil Sketch“, I would proudly tell my family and they would agree to it, mostly by default.

That was aeons back, and for some reason I did not continue sketching or maybe I could not, because, the ever demanding expectations and the strict way of upbringing me, lead to gradually lose my interest in art, that, I never gave a thought about the fact that it would be extinct from my life.

In short, I never sketched again for the next 25 years, until last year, when I visited one of my wife’s cousin in Sharjah, U.A.E. The fellow (a novice at art) displayed his wonderful oil paintings. That instantly stimulated my brain and from nowhere it reminded me of my own creative instincts.

All I did next was to purchase a note book and some graphite pencils for practice. That said, I’am glad to say, I could still draw and with a certain ease that was made up of a renewed interest.

Blogging

In 2006, I developed a new hobby of blogging. I used to write on many interesting topics for the sole joy that it would be posted on the Internet.

I even wrote for a Cricket website. I was excited as my article used to be posted during an innings break, that is, I used to cover both the innings LIVE and post it during its break. Boy, I was an excited lot then.

The interest in writing molded me into a professional writer, but, strangely, the interest for blogging suddenly subsided.

Although, I did not make a serious attempt to restart my blogging interest, I was never far away from reading interesting blogs online.

I feel I should start my own blog posts, hence, this second renewed interest dawned in me.

God Speed to my interests!