Sunday, 22 June 2014

Tears of Mehndi

 The mehndi looked a tad too bright. Sunlight streaming through the windows gave an ethereal glow to the small room. She lay still, studying the intricate patterns of mehndi. All woven in narrow loops, entangled in a web of crimson orange. Her husband of a day was snoring beside her, content and happy. Bringing her palm to her nostrils, she inhaled the fragrance of henna. Her eyes closed instinctively, memories came flooding back. 

The sun beat down mercilessly on a hot April afternoon when she decided to apply some mehndi. A visit to the neighbourhood parlour was what she wished for a long time, a fetish…as she had toiled for her semesters. Dupatta tied around her cherubic face, with coolers shading her eyes, she took off on her bike. That was when she saw him. The same chocolate brown eyes bored through her jet black ones. 

Picking up speed, she evaded further scorching looks from him. His mother, Susan auntie always loved to pamper her with sweets. She had a sweet tooth and aunt knew how to pull the strings. A visit to her house always brought silent stares from him- aunt’s only son. She always felt his eyes bored into her soul, he seemed to know the deepest secrets lying in the endless abyss that she called her heart. All through the childhood years, he had been a withdrawn, yet intelligent child. The teen age raging hormones did nothing to his demeanour. She loved their companionable silence.

It was after applying the gooey mehndi did she realise she must have come walking. She kicked herself mentally for bringing her bike. As she stood on the parlor’s steps waiting for her mehndi to dry off, he came. Picking her keys from her outstretched palm, he started the bike and waited for her. Frustrated at his silence, she blew few unruly strands of hair across her face and sat behind him. 

The wind ruffled his hair as the bike rolled down the narrow alleys. She fought the urge to run her mehndi laden palms through his soft hair that glistened in the sunlight. She had been waiting almost four years now, for him to open up- to say something, anything. His looks were always clear, what she never comprehended were his words. Mumbled and crushed between breaths. He was never the talking one. The bike neared the last turn to their street and that was when she licked her dry lips and whispered in a low voice, leaning unto him- “I love you”.

What happened next was something she can never bring to remember again. All she could remember was the chaos, the smell of burnt rubber, blood and loud shrieks. It took her few minutes to register her vocal chords were straining from her shrieks. The truck had stopped finally. He lay still. No wounds. Nothing. Only a trickle of blood from his ears and another from his nose. Tears streaming down her face, she reached out to him. His eyes- they told a hundred stories. The look of love, want, desire...time went still.

She fought to blink back her tears. It has been four more years waiting for him. Everyday she dutifully visited him. He had withstood a tracheotomy, always surrounded by tubes and wires. Yet he was nothing. A vegetable. Breathing, never feeling. Suspended in a void. She talked to him in soothing tones. She told him how bright a future they would have. The children they would have. The arguments, the endearments. She laid her soul bare for him. For him to wake up one fine day from the coma and look at her with those chocolate brown eyes.

The last time she visited him was two days before. She had foolishly hoped one day he would come back. That was never to be. Susan auntie fumbled with his clothing as she arrived and she helped her dress him up. All dolled up, eyes closed, he looked handsome and full of life. She held his fingers in silence. A tear rolled down her cheek. Words failed her today. Tomorrow would be her wedding. She was leaving town soon. This ritual would stop. Should stop. 

He could see her totally broken today. She was in shambles, a solitary tear rolling down her porcelain cheek. He wished to wipe it away with his kisses. Why was she crying? She was always strong, vibrant and hyper with life.  He was hurting. How he wished he could open his eyes and talk to her...hold her hands...smell the mehndi...

Where was she? He ached to see her. Didn't she promise to see him and talk to him everyday? Was that screeching of car tires he heard? The sound died down soon and a cloak of contentment spread over him. He never wanted to wake up again. All he could now see was her palms- intricate patterns of mehndi adorning them. All he could inhale now was the alluring fragrance of mehndi.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014


Thank you, BlogAdda!

My hands get clammy with sweat. 12.30 PM is always the right time for a parent orientation meeting. The air-conditioner blasts, lots of noise, but no drop in temperature. The soaring mercury and humidity makes me look a zombie in motion. A lone trickle of sweat runs down my temple and I sit unperturbed by the monotonous lecture of the coordinator. 

All around her are the charts with depictions of how to study or how to make your child run that extra mile. Vibrant hues of pink, yellow and blue charts with strange signs and stranger language smile at me. I shake my head to concentrate on what is being told and fail miserably as usual. I, of all poor students, the one who always chitchats in the classrooms, sit in stoic silence, unable to comprehend the figures and percentages unwind around me. I feel a kinship to Robert Bruce, a myriad web of marks and percentiles woven in my dull head and the coordinator my spider, trying to spruce me up in the cave of learning.

The charts depicted saying all about mindspark, image minds, Olympiad training, internal assessment, group dynamics, open book assessment, value based questions; the lecture explaining 60+40, 120+60, averaging, Formative assessment, Unit tests, Summative wait a minute, in all my 36 years of life, never have I felt the paranoid fear of "learning". 

I look around baffled at the other parents, they don't bat an eyelash and dutifully jot down notes of what is being said. Some are busy whatsapping, some working out their monthly budget, some staring blank at the woman with the gruff baritone wielding the mike. All I can do is tear my hair in despair, mentally, of course. Two days of parents orientation meet for the kids in a row- I am hallucinating of gorgoyles and witchcraft. I wish secretly my broom stick would come and time transport me to the wonderful days when all I did was chase butterflies and pick random fights with guys of the class. Life of our kids is seriously in dipshit!

 Schools- the place where we attended classes, cracked jokes, had healthy competitions, ran hot races, ate shared meals and studied once in a while are now run with caustic precision that can put Auschwitz to shame. It is assessment after assessment with clocked accuracy, no sir, no leave for any reason except 'serious' sickness, certified by a paediatrician. ( Russian medical degrees will not be valid here!)You know, our camp is bery bery ishtrict!

"We attach lot of importance to sports". Now haven't we heard that before? You want your child to practice a few hours extra in the mornings. No Sir. Ask your son/daughter to run in the midnight inside your 600 sqft flat's 10x10 bedroom. " We are very interested to take your kids for a tour". Now that is a sure dampener. The 'custom made' tour for 10 year olds across the historical forgotten towns of dusty Dakshin will cost you four silk sarees. 'International study tours' of your senior secondary son/daughter can make you place a classified ad to sell your great grandfather's prized half acre farm land.

"We stress on extra curricular activities for the Holistic development of children" means you are going to cough up extra few thousands for a karate course where the child learns the lone upper punch to practice on your sulking face! Or it may be a dramatics course where your daughter will be the 23 rd dancer on the 30th row, shining in her 2000 bucks dance costume, jumping onstage for a school day show!

Gone are the schools where we had the freedom to make paper boats on our own, where we sported garden snakes in ink bottles, where we 'enjoyed' schooling. The schools these days are mere 'broiler chicken' churning chicken farms where we send the eggs to be hatched, chicks moulded, fed with 'knowledge' feed, watered with 'exams and unit tests' and we get the final product- ready to slaughter juicy chicken straight from school, to the corridors of a random IT company!
That would be a math class underway :P
 Where is the thinking ability? Problem solving skills? How are these chicken going to travel the future highway wrought with cut throat competition? Will these automated KFC style chicken stand the race of life? Only time can tell. Until then, it is going to be a mad mad rat race for medical and engineering seats. It is a sad scenario where parents of children who take up humanities and arts streams are looked down as 'under dogs'. 

The scorn and smirk that follow our backs can make us cringe and scrape in despair. It is either EEE or ECE or Computer Science in engineering colleges that dictate the social status of parents. The child has to prove that he is the son of Mr. Ramasamy only by entering an engineering college, not a DNA test, mind it! The pressure that we put on our children to awake, arise and shine in studies is so blindening that we forget that they do have nimble fingers and soft hearts, with lots of love for us. Stoke the love and motivate, let them choose, let them seek and find the direction. Let us not pull them to slaughter houses of broiler chicken. Happy Parenting!

p.s.: I am in love with my daughter ;) Even as I madly type away this post, she is gleefully drawing pictures of Rapunzel from Enchanted, in sheets of paper strewn all around her :)
p.p.s.:  Someone tell me the name of chemical element found in dandruff shampoo...seventh standard science project is to identify elements in objects around us! Effect of doing too much of homework, I guess;)

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Travel- C(b)attle class!

Travel. A small word holding huge trouble. Whether it is an overnight flight to the Gulf or a rickety ride in two-wheeler to the nearest grocery shop, we love to travel- bindaas. Without hiccups. Without itching to hit the person snoring next to us in an overnight train. Without churning out the last eaten dosas out of our stomachs as the glutton sharing the aisle seat dumps his 6th drink. We love to travel, with no trouble. We are so meticulous in planning the bus ride for 2 kilometers  that would put India's Chandrayaan journey look cake walk.

Securing that coveted 'window' seat is everyone's dream. A dream pricier than marrying Aishwarya rai. If you are wedded to someone who is a 'nature lover' who ogles on the corner seat more than he/she ever looked at you, your journeys are definitely going to be in the aisle seat, glued to the iPad. If you have a child, you are going to baby-sit in the middle seat, sandwiched between the snoring husband and the animated child. If you have two children, bless your hearts dears, you are going to be the acting referee for a multi-round WWF match between the two for the 'corner seat'.

Seat secured, luggage secured, the next thing we have to secure is our torso. If you travel with family, the job is easier, it is again a normal night at bed, you being kicked, scratched and nudged by the husband dear and the children. If you travel alone, beware of that lady sitting near you who has ten liters of oil plastered to her 3 inches of hair. She will dutifully rub it all on your favorite white kurta and you can very well go home, wring your kurta for that month's oil reserve. Be careful of the male of the species, they are particularly headstrong in sleeping on the journey, rolling their heads on your shoulders and you become unfortunate 'Atlases' holding their heads. Only you wish you became Medusa that instant, snakes hissing from your head to ward off the sleepy douche bag near you.

The next thing you have to take care is your privacy and sanity. Train journeys are to be dreaded here, especially the sleeper classes that teem with senior citizens who are hell bent in knowing the where, how, when, why and what of your travel agenda. Shut your eyes, insert your head phone, or bury your nose in that proverbial Sydney Sheldon, the 60 plus aunty in the lower berth is never going to leave you alone. She starts with a seemingly obnoxious question of what time the train is supposed to reach Chennai. By the next ten minutes, you will find yourself telling her the story of how your fourth cousin's second wife's third child ran away with a no-gooder. Are men better? Nah. The questions asked are so deft that by the time you disembark, the wicked man would have pocketed your office address or mobile number. 

Then there is the biggest of all troubles- everyone intent on travelling love to bathe in sweat and use that eau-de-cologne that smells better than axe deo. They are so hellbent on raising their underarms straight over your nose. No escaping that, dear madam. Men love to hold on to the armrests that you ward off carefully or those funny shaped loops high above their heads. Those loops are  pre-planned ploys to make you swoon at the perfume dabbed at the underarms. Close your nostrils and fight for oxygen, peel a dozen oranges from your bag, smell and re-smell your perfumed hanky- nothing is going to save you from the pungent odor of unshaved underarms. 

Now wait! Your ordeal is not over. You feel your flight has landed and open your tightly shut eye lids. Only to realise to your horror that the 100 odd passengers of your flight jostle for space at the exitways. Thank your lucky stars that the flight did not nosedive into the mantle of the earth due to them 'urgent' passengers. You set your alarm at 4.00 am to get down at a station where your train reaches at 4.15 am. Alas, my dear. The whole coach is awake by 3.30 with chappals stomping and lights blinding. A howling infant and terrifying baritone of his father pacifying him, a hundred cell phones blaring simultaneously at 4.00 and by the time you reach the door to get down, there is a mini Kumbh mela crowd thronging the door way. All you can do is climb down the train and walk like a zombie to the waiting bus. It is again a nightmare to get a seat there.

How do we the cattle class corner seats in a just-arriving bus? It is a historic event worth a Guinness mention! As the bus turns round the corner, you have to make a towel/ handkerchief  your loop, ready to hoist the noose around the seat. Keep calm, concentrate, say a prayer, take aim and throw the noose. If you are lucky and lady luck smiles at you, your towel lands with a plop on the corner seat. Now, only half the process is over. The moment the driver applies the brake, all you have to so is close your eyes and elbow your way through the maddening crowd. Not for the weak at heart. No mercy, absolutely. 
Now that is one hell of a bus ride!
You got every right to stomp, kick, hit and be hit by the mob at the doorway, you pay a whopping Rs. 5 for the ride! All you have to do is focus on that corner seat where your darling towel lies, awaiting your back to seat on her. Did you fail to throw the towel? No worrying there. Jostle through the crowd, use your karate moves subtly, climb the bus and sit on someone else's towel. There...easy, isn't it? The moment you sit however, be ready for a stream of abuses hurtling your way from the motor mouth who threw the towel, yet lost the seat to you. This is where your Yoga skills come in handy. Calm yourself, close your eyes, shut down your auditory nerve system and imagine you are in Greater Kailash/ Mansarovar with clouds hanging and mist closing in. The abuses will stop eventually by the time you visit your great great grandfather in his Heavenly abode! Have a kid? The seat securing marathon is just a piece of cake. Throw in the kid instead of the towel, minus the diaper. Seat- guaranteed!

Though all these minuses weigh us down, we do love travel. We do like to wander the far off lands in the most 'convenient' way. For everyone else who likes to travel royally, you can always have a car, marry the owner/ driver or own a driver/owner ( I mean marry someone!) and buy a car, travel with ease. Cattle class or battle class, we Indians are always ready for the game!

p.s.: This is one post written after a terrifying train journey where I stood for almost 2 hours. So, I got the right to whine!
p.p.s.: Schools reopen tomorrow after vacations. Yayyy! The kids are now saved from my constant picking and yelling;)
p.p.p.s.: Sick of watching Chotta Bheem's umpteen episodes at home. Makes me wonder how do mothers cope with watching hours and hours of that laddoo eating crazy imagining him as Hrithik Roshan? ;)