Saturday, September 20, 2014

I Pray as you Prey

I pray as you prey ! 

Friend or foe
 I do not know 
Fragile and fabulous 
As you make your meal ,
 Praying  Mantis :
Save the good friends
Have the bad foes
May be I will kowtow 
as a quid pro quo
Baby steps for both of us 
Sowing and Preying 

( Inspired by a baby Praying mantis  on my Brinjal plant,  carnivores that  may prey on the good and bad pests in an organic garden )

Thursday, September 4, 2014

My Lanterns

My Lanterns

 A good book  according to me is one:

-  That makes me forget the milk boiling over ( and over !)  which converts an ordinary salem steel vessel into an anodised black beauty.

-  that which surprisingly stops me from sprinting to pick up the phone.

-  that which saves the many trips to the pantry for snack refills.

-  That which makes life seem pointless and empty when you reach the last page, final word. Full stop.

That was just a  suggestive list of what a good book can make you do or not -do.

One may add - the avoidance of the customary chore of  making the bed.

 ( waste of precious labour and time considering, in a matter of few hours we are going to open up all the folded sheets. Two of my friends and one of my sisters ' concur with me on  this logic  Love them.)

The ultimate blue litmus test of a good book is, when it takes you down memory lane with a smile,  makes you relate to it in more ways than one or draw parallels from your life and times.

A brief about one such book- Lantern -Memoirs of Mentors By Marian Wright Edelman.

The author has been at the centre of civil rights and Child advocacy struggles at the heart of this Century. In this poignant, lucid, straight from the heart narrative, she pays tribute to all the mentors who lit her way. She includes her parents, her children, and people like  Martin  Luther King Jr., Robert F Kennedy and the many teachers who inspired her.

A stirring and transcendent memoir. The narrative feels like a cozy conversation with an affectionate family elder.

This book not only passed the litmus test but inspired me to write about the lanterns that lit up my path.

My lanterns:

Leelavati teacher: My 6th-grade class teacher and Asst Head Mistress.

The teacher who first taught me to believe in myself, who used to assure me saying "You are very different from others. But Be yourself always!No matter what ."

That 'No matter what ' - needs a separate post. But here is a fairly representative list of what it meant.

- Being an 'outstanding ' student. ( in the literal sense of the term!)
- developing the ability to catch Map-drawing /Math note book thrown at me from any angle!
- writing poetry during math class and getting caught for spelling errors in it!
- Straightening out a safety pin to give the effect of a needle and take it in and out of a handkerchief during Needlework class sitting at the last bench! This trick was passed over by my elder sister and her classmates.
Reminded of a  classmate who was good with needlework and kind too, who would lend us her work -which would be used by all of us for the sake of marks. God bless that generous girl and the innocent teacher. The synergy of kindness and naivety, going hand in hand. Rather hand to hand in this case.

Add to this my trauma due to constant comparisons made by all teachers, ayahs and peons at school with the smart cookie siblings who scored first rank and 100% in maths always.

Any wonder that I still get nightmares about calculus and wake up sweating? The realisation that it was just a  dream is PURE BLISS.

Back to Leelavati teacher - I am ever so thankful to her for assuring me that it was perfectly okay to be a non-conformist and have diverse views and interests which very often landed me in trouble.

Thanks to Leelavati Teacher I am comfortable handling both - being a non-conformist and getting into trouble.

Never give up hopes on anyone - is my takeaway from this lantern - Leelavathi teacher!

Shantha -Head Mistress

A real front runner, an outlier of her times. She had such futuristic views in running a school way back in 1978. The best school  I  would say by any standards. Lady Mct.M Girls High School in Purasaiwalkam.A nondescript state board school. But I see most of them from my class, seniors in public life. Yes, this was one thing she encouraged. Public speaking. So many opportunities to showcase innate talents were available in the school. There would always be three consolation prizes for every competition! (With overt sensitivity seeping into our language these days, we call it Encouragement prizes !)

Still amazed at the School parliament system she introduced.Which would have all the class representatives, class teachers and the various Arts and literary club secretaries ..that would meet every first Monday. It used to be run just like a real parliament with a speaker, question hour, except that we didn't pull any one's pallu or throw chairs at each other or use vernacular expletives.

Administrative skills and teamwork are what I learnt from her and this school. We never had this one-upmanship race which is being fuelled by the present generation schools and their activities in the name of teamwork. Team those days meant a circle.Never a pyramidal structure.

Harshad Mehta:

Now, what can I say about this man ? ..While I am consciously and deliberately avoiding the legal battles he had to fight.He was a role model to many of us in personal and work life.
A model employer, a  real taskmaster whom, we, as employees feared .when it came to work and deadlines, who otherwise was like jelly, most pliable when it came to personal relations. One could learn many lessons from his management style. And to think that he was a school drop-out makes me repent having completed schooling.

Can't help remembering this adage, " Schooling comes in the way of education ."

His favorite words of advice to all of us "Don't be inactive. Do something " It keeps ringing in my ears .. till date.

It also sums up his personality ..Restless , dynamic. Thinking out of the box, learning all the time. Add humility to this. A great combination indeed.

This lantern continues to enlighten me, who taught us to have the courage of conviction.  Confidence was just a by-product of that innate conviction. Remembering one's  roots is yet another trait I imbibed from him.

Ashwin Bhai:

The man who taught us what hand-shakes were all about! I still remember the feel of his 'handshake." Very few people can let the warmth and genuine goodness come through a handshake.
The firm, warm, genuine handshake and held for precisely the right amount of time.

Many years after their empire's downfall when I met him at Mumbai( much against everyone's  advice ..Well Went by Leelavati Teachers' advice here !)  Oh yes! The handshake felt the same after all that crisis in their personal and professional lives.  Firm, warm and genuine.

Truly touching moments etched in memory.
A man of quiet leadership, unshakable calm and firm handshakes. 

Sanikavadi Swaminatha Iyer!

My paternal grandfather, who was meticulous in keeping accounts of the household - a Joint family then. Remember seeing him with a  long ledger where he would write the days' expenses before the end of the day. Each single day till he breathed his last. Towards his last days, I was his accountant. That habit has stuck on to me forever. And I am not complaining.

My takeaway from this lantern - spartan, minimalistic lifestyle and believing in " what gets measured gets done ."

Rajalakshmi Swaminathan.

My paternal grandmom fondly called Pattu paati. Her  love for life despite all odds is what continues to amaze me
Here is an ode to her,  which I penned the day she left this earth for a better life.Pattu paati and purple pottu !

Pudhupaadi Venkateswara Iyer.

My maternal thatha who died when I was still very young. Whenever I think of him an image of love, cheer, humour comes to my mind.

I have inherited his Jaw structure. His permanent wide grin came free with it I guess.

His sunny disposition, irrespective of life's drudgeries is something I would like to emulate.

Heard from my mom that he used to say " Penn kuzhandaigalai potri valarka vendum " .. roughly translated, it means "praise and positive reinforcement are the key ingredients in bringing up girl children."

Alamelu ammal.

My favorite Alamelu paati , my maternal grandma. She too died when I was still in middle school.An amazing personality who broke out of society's boxes. A  non-conformist in those days ..( does that explain something about me ?) who used to rush to the Church for Sunday prayer meets after completing her chores and rituals as a Hindu, homemaker.

She taught me the first star kolam and the song " Enai aalum Mary matha,thunai neeye Mary maatha !"

A very brave woman and far too independent for those times.

This lantern gave out rays of courage and religious tolerance which continue to guide me. 

These are the lanterns that have lighted up my journey so far. More lanterns light up my way even now.

You may be one of them.So watch this space for the "Living Legend" series!!!

This is my tribute to all teachers on this day September 5th, 2014.

Monday, September 1, 2014

உறவுகள் தொடர்கதை

உறவுகள் தொடர்கதை ....

மூடு பனி விலகாத  மார்கழி காலை . அலாரம்  அடிப்பதற்குமுன் இது என்ன ஆட்டோ  சத்தம்   என்று யோசித்த படியே  எழுந்தார்  கணேசன் .

"லக்ஷ்மி , எங்க போய்ட்ட  , யாரோ நம்மாத்துக்கு  தான் வந்துருக்கா  பார் !"

அதற்குள்  லக்ஷ்மியும்  , " எங்க போவேன் , அம்பது  வருஷமா காலங்கார்த்தாலே  அதே காபி , அதே டிகாஷன்  வேலை தான் ..யார் வரா இவ்வளோ  சீக்கிரம் ?? என்று கேட்டபடியே  கணேசன்  உடன் வாசலுக்கு சென்றாள் .

"வா , வா, என்னடா  அருண் திடீர்ன்னு ? மாலதி வரலே ? "என்று  கேட்ட   லக்ஷ்மி ,  "நேத்திக்குதான் உங்கப்பா உன்னை பார்க்கணும்னு சொன்னார் ..இப்போ பார் வாய் எல்லாம் பல் ! " என்று  கணேசனை  பார்த்து சிரித்தாள் .

பிறந்த  வீட்டுக்குள்  நுழையும் போதே எங்கிருந்தோ வந்து கூடவே ஒட்டிக்கொள்ளும்  சோம்பலுடன்  சோபாவில்  அருண் ,"தொப் " என்று சாய்ந்தான் .

அதற்குள் கணேசன்  Ipad  உடன் வந்து  , "அருண் , இந்த ipad  லே key pad  காணாமே காணாமே  போறதுடா ..கொஞ்சம் சொல்லி குடேன் என்று கெஞ்சினார் .

"குழந்தை திடுதிப்புன்னு  வந்திருக்கானே , என்னன்னு  விசாரிக்காமே இந்த ipad பத்தி ஆரம்பிச்சாச்சா? " என்று பர்ஸ்ட் டோஸ்  காபியுடன்  வாங்கி கட்டிகொண்டார் கணேசன் - மனைவியிடமிருந்து .

இதையெல்லாம் ரசித்தபடியே அம்மா குடுத்த அற்புதமான காபியை சுவைத்தபடி சோம்பல் முறித்த அருண் , " ஆபிஸ்  விஷயமா வந்திருக்கேன் மா ..மாலதிக்கு  லீவ் போடா முடியலே , நாளைக்கே போகணும் திரும்பி " என்றான்.

'சரி , இரு உனக்கு பிடிச்ச பருப்பு  உசிலி , மோர்க் குழம்பு பண்றேன்" என லக்ஷ்மி சமையல் அறைக்கு சென்றாள் .

கணேசன் , கிடைத்த வாய்ப்பை  நழுவ விட  மனமில்லாமல்  ipad  சகிதம்  மகனிடம் வந்து உட்கார்ந்தார் ,  ஆனால் ..போன வேகத்தில் திரும்பிய லக்ஷ்மி " ஏண்டா , டாக்டர்  கிட்டே  போனேளா ? என்ன சொல்றார்? வயசு  ஏறிண் டே   போறதே ..." என்று  வாஞ்சையுடன்  மகனிடம்  மகப்பேற்றை  பற்றி பேசினாள் .

" ஏதாவது இருந்தா அவனே சொல்ல மாட்டானா , லக்ஷ்மி " என்று கணேசன் நாசூக்காக  சொல்லி பார்த்தார்... இன்னுமொரு டோஸ்  வருமென்று தெரிந்தும். !

" இல்லேம்மா, ivf  , அதான்  செயற்கையா  தான் முடியும் போல இருக்கு . எனக்கும் , மாலதிக்கும் அதுலே அவ்வளவா  இஷ்டம் இல்லை ..சைடு எபக்ட்ஸ் இருக்கும் போல இருக்கு...ஆனா ..மாலதி ஒரு குழந்தையை அடாப்ட் பண்ணிக்கலாம்னு சொல்றா ...எனக்குத் தான் என்னவோ  தயக்கமா இருக்கு "  அருண்  ஒத்திகை  பார்த்ததை கடகடவென  சொல்லி முடித்தான்.

பேரிரை ச்சலான ஒரு மௌனத்துக்கு  பின் லக்ஷ்மி  மெதுவாக  "ஏண்டா , நல்ல ஐடியா தானே ? " என்றாள் .

கணேசன் மெளனமாக  இருந்தார்.

" இல்லே, இரத்த சம்பந்தமே இல்லாம   எப்படி ...எனக்கு என் மேலேயே நம்பிக்கை  இல்லேமா " என்று எங்கேயோ பார்த்தபடி எப்படியோ சொல்லி முடித்தான்

கணேசன் , கனைத்தபடி .."அருண் , எனக்கும் உங்க அம்மாவுக்கும் என்ன இரத்த சம்பந்தம் ?  அம்பது  வருஷமா  சந்தோஷமா  இல்லையா ? உனக்கும்  மாலதிக்கும் என்ன இரத்த சம்பந்தம் ..கல்யாணத்துக்கு  முன்னாடி 3 வருஷம் , கல்யாணத்துக்கு அப்புறம் 7 வருஷம்  அன்யோன்யமா  இல்லையா ? தைரி யமா  இறங்கு . லேட் பண்ணாதே "  என்று எழுந்தார் .

லக்ஷ்மிக்கு  தன்  காதையே நம்ப முடியவில்லை , கணேசன் இவ்வளவு நேர்த்தியாய்  சொன்னதை கேட்டு ...

அருணுக்கு  எங்கேயோ பொறி தட்டினார் போல இருந்தது.. "வளர்த்த பாசத்துக்கு ஈடு இணை இல்லை "  என அம்மா சொல்வது கேட்டுக்கொண்டு இருக்கும் போதே கை, மாலதி செல் நம்பரை தட்டியது...

உணர்வுகள் சிறுகதை . உறவுகள் தான் தொடர்கதை .