Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Real Togetherness from a cleaning drive


The streetlights were still on when the sun rose, lighting up the peaceful Calicut city only beginning to awaken from its slumber. The Kozhikode Beach witnessed a higher turnout of visitors than the usual weekends. Especially today, when people had something more than a casual hang-around idea in mind. Most of them were here for a purpose, with a resolve to transform the arena. They were here to clean the city and show their respect to dear Bapu.

It is the second day of October, the day that reminds us of the greatest man on Earth who couldn't rest until he saw goodness reap in every corner of Earth. This day saw the nation holding hands in integrity, for the better good of the society. This day, not only India, but the world bowed to Mahathma Gandhi, the man who became the change he wished to see in the world.

 And today, the natives of Calicut had gathered at different places for a cleaning drive, for every man in the city was entitled to its cleanliness. Their smartphones and laptops were going to be disappointed, for they would be inactive all day. This time, the people were going to be active, and not the phones.

The daily morning walkers passed right past the quarters across the Beach, expecting to see the usual mountain of garbage near its entrance which had become its landmark. But today, they saw something new. Masked men holding sacks and sticks dotted the place. Some of them brought in shovels and buckets. After all this time, the residents had decided to clear it themselves, why wait for the rag pickers who might never show up?

And for once, the quarters saw real togetherness among their residents., united with brooms (mind you, we're not talking about AAP). People from every block came out with their tools. There was a lot of swishing and sweeping, picking and poking, scrounging and brushing until the mountain was brought down and replaced with natural manured soil. The land was then embed with small plants, and a sign that read, "Please do not throw waste here".

By the end of the admirably exhausting effort put forth by the neighborhood, the ladies had prepared a lovely lunch for everyone. As the men, women and children gathered together for the lunch, they had had their reward. Nope, not the lunch (although one wouldn't deny that the ladies had done a stunning job), but what was more worth was the real togetherness that they got to have. The profuse sweating that spoke of the volumes of hard work, the taste of the food that explained all the love put into making it, those smiles on everybody's faces that could beat everything else they could possibly have.

Yes, Real Togetherness is the best reward for their effort. Why,  they had made a pact with mother earth as well, all along in the presence of Bapu  in their hearts. And from the next day on, the morning walkers had a surprise, with the garbage landmark being replaced by a garden.

Such is the story of this quarters. Maybe the same happens elsewhere too. Here's a video of a similar incident of Kissanpur discovering real togetherness.

http://www.kissanpur.com




Monday, 19 October 2015

Go McCrazy


http://www.mccainindia.com/McCain India



"I'm going home!" she snapped back at me, visibly frustrated. With her hair all tousled up and eyeliner smeared, anyone would've said she looked like a ghost. But not me. To me, she would always be my gorgeous bestie. And today I was determined to give her the best surprise one could possibly give. 
"What are you sniggering at you meathead?!" she squeaked at me again. Gorgeous, that she was. But it was so hard not to laugh at how funny she looked when annoyed. In a few minutes, that was going to change anyway. I had to take care not to spoil the surprise. So I composed myself and spoke up, "You're not leaving yet sweety. There's something important, come with me." and I turned my back to her and walked off, knowing she would follow. "This better be good." she chimed from behind me.

It was Catherine's sweet sixteen, and for a girl like her one wouldn't disagree that she deserved better than what happened with her today. She was so caring, so smart, so elegant though slightly crazy, that you couldn't just not love her. She'd been in high spirits in the morning, but was quite bummed when all she received was a few birthday wishes from people who didn't matter. Her gang did meet up with her, but hadn't uttered a word about it being her special day. By now, it was noon and Catherine couldn't be more pissed about it all. 

We'd reached Forum Mall. I could bet she knew why we were here already, or at least had an idea. "Look!" came her cute squeaky voice, "If you simply want to sit and have a snack, I'm not in the mood. I'm just gonna buy my McCain french fries and leave okay?"
I was grinning again. Of course she wasn't in the mood to eat! But she never said no to McCain (none of us did in fact). Cathy was nuts about potatoes, and naturally of McCain. McCrazy, we called her.

 She followed me to the elevator. Catherine stepped out on the fifth floor and turned to our usual place. She stopped short. "Oh My..." 
"Surprise!!!" chorused the twenty or so people before her, each holding a coloured balloon. The arched board on top read "Happy Birthday McCatherine!" 
A table placed right in the middle of the crowd had a double-decker cake, decorated with McCain smiles with whipped cream and lettuce on top. McCain french fries covered the whole of the bottom layer. A tray next to the birthday 'McCake' had McCain cheese shotz, and another had nuggets. There was no better gift for miss McCrazy Catherine.

I could swear Cathy went wild with joy. All her frustration disappeared in a poof as she hugged me in euphoria. Ha! It was worth it. She looked back at all her favourite McCain snacks and then at us, at a loss for words. And at that moment I knew, that my gorgeous girl couldn't have asked for more.

McCain had always brought us light moments. With the way Cathy was ignored on her special day, one would've thought she'd never forgive us. But then, this surprise definitely beats everything.
Right now when I looked at her, I couldn't say if the happiest person in the world was her for having gotten the surprise, or just me for making this happen. Why, it was not everyday that we get to have all the McCain snacks together. Each one of us in the party was glad to be here, glad to make Cathy smile, and glad to smile with her.
 "You guys are crazy!" Cathey finally croaked, finding her voice again. I shook my head, "Nop." And with loud ripples of laughter, all the twenty of us chorused, 
"We're McCrazy!!" 





Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Maladu Days




A small packet was dropped before me. Rows of little powdered milk cubes were lined inside. Probably just another snack that dad brought. But why did it look so familiarly yummy already? Slowly, I picked out one of those little cubes and looked at it. "It's maladu." said mom, noticing my scrutiny. One small bite...and the cube melted in my tongue...that powdered milk giving life to all those taste buds as if they had been dead all along...and with the powdered milk, all that was around me melted away...

A sudden excitement crept into every inch of my body as I bounced off in full speed to my front door. I'd heard her hoot from downstairs...she was here again! Halting right in time before hitting the wall, I climbed up the grills of the nearby window to get a glimpse of her. Holding the cold iron bars tightly, I peered through the opening in the grills. Aah, there she was, at the bottom of our staircase, lowering her basket down  from her head.

"Mummieeeeee!! Maalaadooo maameee's heeeereee!!! " I screamed out. And then I looked back at dear maladoo maamy, with a kind of elation that only a four year old could have on seeing her favourite snack within reach. Maladus were so yummy, those round little balls of magic powder, perhaps the love of my life at the time. And each time it got finished at home, I would wait for maladu maamy, who would always come back with more. And here I was on top of the grills, bubbling with joy on having sighted her.

But where was my mother? Why wasn't she responding to my call? Suddenly I was afraid that mom wouldn't show up and maladu maamy would go away. I was afraid of missing out on this time's maladus. In desperation, I called out again, "Mummiieeeee!!"

Before I could get any more disappointed, I was surprised to see mom and my sister downstairs standing next to maladu maamy. How did they get outside? Oh wait, they'd gone to the market hadn't they? How could I forget?! Mummy was looking up at me with a smile. Had they heard me all the way from the market and rushed home? Probably, because I cannot imagine missing my maladus! Yes, they knew that they had to reach home ASAP.

Fast forward thirteen years, and I sat with another cube in my hand, eyes wide. Another flash of memory...I was looking straight at mom, and for the hundredth time or so she chanted, "Little Wilhelmine..looks with wonder waiting eyes."
All these years, and it was only today that I read the lines of the poem she'd recited so long ago, the Battle of Blenheim. I looked up at mom now, but she was engaged with something else. A sudden realization occurred at how much I'd grown up since then. 

Looking back at the maladu in my hand, which was no longer round-shaped like it used to be thirteen years ago, but still had that unmistakable taste of the ones maladu maamy used to bring, the flashback I experienced is similar to the Ratatouille movie when the food critic was presented with a childhood dish; ratatouille itself. The moment the dish touched his tongue, he was a child again, devouring the ratatouille his mother made for him, and he couldn't possibly be any happier.

Today I saw the truth in it. When I eat these maladus now, that same illogical elation engulfs me, as if the best thing that could happen in life is to be able to eat yet another maladu. When I come to think of it, its funny how easily happiness came to us as kids. Age sucks in the slightest of the joys we enjoy. But not unless we  choose otherwise. 

Sometimes the memories hidden in the deepest part of our minds resurface and remind us of the little reasons behind our childhood smiles, like this maladoo did to me. And now I know, that if ever I am in need of happiness, all I really need is a maladu, and I shall be a four year old again...happy as can be..with those wonder waiting eyes.




Thursday, 8 October 2015

Monotonous Cacophony





You think time doesn't cease?
That it knows no 'pause'?
That it heeds no halts and it's its own boss?
I thought so too,
That it waits for none,
That if once it moves it's never undone.
But then, here now
So it seems, that
Our dear old time's just been outdone!
For I've seen it slow
And I've seen it halt,
And I bet you must have seen it too.
When a room so filled 
And you're stuck there drilled...
With that same voice
With that same face,
Each day, each time
with that same unbroken 
Monotonous cacophony.
Was Yesterday today?
Is today now tomorrow?
Did hours pass by?
Or maybe just minutes?
Ahh yes, time halts
when unneeded the most,
when the cacophony of lectures
rings boredom down to earth. 
Yes, time pauses
when wished to speed up
when seconds on a clock
seem hours at end.
Yes, time ceases, 
The king of existence
And yet it bows 
to monotonous cacophonies,
yet it bows
when boredom descends.

***

# classroom_scene #boringlectures 

FYI this is with reference to all those long hours of class in school (or maybe college), which never (-ever!) seems to end. One must appreciate the endurence power of a student! But of course it is one of the come-and-go episodes of life we cannot avoid. So we might as well make the best out of it. All the same, the monotonous cacophony is one that has beaten time itself, so one cannot possibly expect us to get along with it that easy. Well, here's to all those students who actually make it through their boring lectures without losing their peace of mind ( or anything else for the matter).
We be wows! ;)


Wednesday, 9 September 2015

A Week with the Kitchen




Surely, it could manage for a week without mom. But of course it wouldn't be happy about it. Dad and I were to take her position for the time being. We were to be employed as home-makers temporarily. Salary? Three square meals everyday, that is, if we do it right. It was only a matter of one week after all, how hard could it be? So here we go..

#Day 1
Dad and I enter the kitchen, all geared up to make the dish of the day. While dad got the tea ready, I opened the fridge to get all the stuff we might need. Well, there was *everything* that we needed. As in, mom'd prepared food for a day to ease our work. We were relieved, but also secretly disappointed to have nothing to cook for the day. But the kitchen was happy. So were we.

#Day 2
Dad and I are feeling responsible. Today, we are going to cook!  As I scrounge the kitchen for our requirements, dad becomes acutely mad for not finding anything he wants. Unfortunately, the kitchen sensed the heated mood and got irritated. It ended up hiding all that we needed in easily-unnoticed corners. After an exhausting preparation of a few hopefully-edible idlis, we still hadn't made the curry we planned to. If we were to start making that, we'd end up having breakfast at lunch time.  Luckily, there was still some left from what mom made, and we adjusted with it for the day.

#Day 3
We start early, with one day's experience of work. We'd finished up all the curry by now. So it was going to be a dad 'n' me special sambhar. He asked me to get all the vegetables we had. I did. There were so many that we couldn't choose. So naturally, dad cut out all the veggies available and we had a tough time finding a vessel big enough to fit them all. With a great deal of excitement we made our epic sambhar, just the way we expected. Content with the accomplishment of making enough sambhar for the neighborhood, every other dish looked petty. So I shall not be mentioning it here. The Kitchen was content too, though exhausted just the way were.

#Day 4
The kitchen badly needed a bath. It wasn't particularly fond of the change in livelihood in the past three days. Dad and I were cross at it more often, and it only made things worse for us. Atleast we were glad the sambhar was in plenty. We didn't have to make more curry for a while. I gave the kitchen a nice clean up. Hopefully it would be better tempered now. It was definitely missing mom a lot. All we did was mix things in wrong proportions, make food either too much or too less, and leave a huge heap of left-over wastes around. But I guess we were getting a hang of it. 3 days to go.

#Day 5
Whoops. Poor kitchen is running out of supplies. Dad and I went shopping. In any case, we had to keep the kitchen in good terms with us. The refrigerator, the plastic containers, cupboards, everything was empty. Except the dustbin though. Surprisingly, the sambhar had gotten over. Apparently, we consumed it too lavishly, overestimating its quantity. We managed to make a fish curry in just about the right quantity. The kitchen was reloaded. Clean and complete. We'd done our dishes well. Ahha. Who said the kitchen was a tough nut to crack?! It was a piece of cake for us! 

#Day 6
The smoothest day so far. That's right, we rocked the kitchen. I bet it loved us. Dad and I didn't complain anymore. We'd replaced the kitchen stuff our way. It wasn't confusing now either. We'd nailed it! Trust us, cooking had actually become fun, though time-consuming. It wasn't a full-time job anyway. We did have a few hours of break after each meal. Since we were only beginners, many petty jobs in the household were waived. There is no teaching aid to prepare us to handle a home after all, the only means of learning being experience. Mom is so far ahead in the field that we couldn't possibly see her. But at least today we got the knack of it. The kitchen was happy, so were we.

#Day 7
Dad and I feel very important. One more day and we would succeed in our week-long kitchen management task. You have to admit that our accomplishment isn't trivial! Everything was in place, we knew what to do , and we had one smooth day's experience. This day was surely going to be better. 
*Ding Dong* 
Surprise! The veteran home-maker is back a day early. It seemed that she missed the kitchen too much to have stayed away any longer. We could have easily managed another day. But yes, we were relieved.

Mom is quick to adjust back with the kitchen. It seems overjoyed, and more homely. It wasn't as neat and organized as we'd kept it. But it seemed to like the slightly messy way mom liked to keep it. What we took hours to do she did with a flick of her finger. What we couldn't find in the kitchen, mom saw with her third eye. What not another soul could do, mom could make home feel home. 

And so we now know the tedious task of handling a kitchen. Here's our salute to all moms for their perseverance, patience and peace-keeping, which most of us often fail to appreciate. Spend a week with the kitchen and you'll know it.





Sunday, 30 August 2015

My Sweet Sixteen




He wanted to know everything that happened that day. What happened on my sixteenth birthday. The most daring day I ever lived, the biggest secret I ever kept. And strangely enough, I wanted to tell him. Him, whom I met ages after our last encounter. Him to whom it didn't matter at all. After so long a time, it would be painful to kindle the memories of the lost bonds, though only one year past. But who wouldn't want to have a tour through the best day of your life once again? Who wouldn't want to give away anything to live that day once more?

And so, I told him. I told him about all the drama that unfolded that day, of all the tensions, anticipations, all the excitement, and happiness. I lived the day once again through the tale. I re-visited the essence of what we had back then. I smiled again like I did that day. I told him everything, and yet how little he knew. I sounded carefree, yet how very far I was from it.

Three hundred and sixty five days later, on the same day that I believed was my best, came a surprise. Unlike that day, I was showered with love with not one, but many. And I was happier than I was then. That was the surprise. Back then, it was most of the adrenalin that took the place of happiness. But now it was different. I couldn't choose which was better, whether to be purely happy, or be happily worried.

It was my birthday, and I thought it was once again the happiest day I ever had. But when I look back now, I realized that it would still be my sweet sixteen that I would remember the most. And I also realized, that I missed what I had back then, despite all the things that made my day special this time.

It isn't everyday that you get nostalgic about your past. And the past often catches up with you when solitude takes your side. But then, when there are the ones who give you better company than solitude, when they can't make you stop smiling, amidst all the laughter and celebrations, if it is still possible to miss that day for whatever it was worth...it means it is something that has touched you for a lifetime.

But yes, past is past. We mustn't hold on to it. Because life goes on, even if we don't. And yes, You Only Live Once. Like I say, you risk it, or regret it. I risked it then. And I don't  regret it.

And now I smile, thanking almighty for what He has blessed me with. Let life take what course it wishes. Until then, I have my memories to kindle, come every birthday of the year. I'll miss you, sweet sixteen. Always




Thursday, 6 August 2015

To have a sister



A little girl of four sat on the printed carpet. The deafening rain outside thrashed through the windows. The room was dimly lit, occasionally brightened by the flashes of lightning. A sudden thunder reverberated in the room. But the little girl wasn't afraid. She knew that she was safe and sound on the carpet. Surely, the lightning couldn't get through to her! She wisely stayed put on the mattress, not giving lightning a chance to get her. That wise little girl was me, thirteen years ago.

Someone called from the bedroom. I swiveled my head to see an older girl sitting on top of the bed. "Get over here!" she called out, with an urgent expression on her face. "The bed is safe! Get in here before you're struck by an electric shock!" She exclaimed desperately, "Hurry! "
"But you told me that it couldn't get through the carpet!" I called back worriedly.
"Well...not anymore! Get in here fast! It can't get through to the bed!"
And so, I rushed over to the bed as fast as I could, afraid that lightning would hit me the moment my feet touched the tiled floor.

That was my dear own sister, for whom I was there at every beck and call. She was my head and I her tail. Thirteen years thence, I still look up to my sister the way I did when she 'protected' me from lightning. I still need her badly, despite all the times she is so annoyingly talkative and gets on my nerves.

She is my dear sister who turns twenty two today, and who still loves Cerelac and watches cartoons. She is my sister, who cooks egg rolls out of a dozen eggs, who makes holes on chapathis and makes them taste like cookies, who insists on playing monopoly and watching animated movies, who secretly wishes to get me a barbie set so she could play with it herself, who shuts herself in a room to dance unseen in the dark, and who just can't stop blabbering whether you listen to her or not.

And that is why, each time she arrives, it is a holiday season at home. Because she doesn't come alone. She comes with a package deal of a huge amount of happiness. I'd say she's like our Santa Claus, but better 'cause she comes twice a year. Like Santa, she brings home smiles, and the house is full of zest. Yes, she  brings gifts too, ranging from a three-rupee pen to a branded t-shirt! What's more, she calls me 'jingle bells', though for reasons I haven't yet understood.

Dad and I were now on the road, racing our way to the Calicut Railway Station. I hopped out of the car to look for her. She wasn't hard to find; her peculiarly bubbly pace being unmistakable. There she was...bouncing her way towards me with so wide a grin that it could scare you if you weren't used to it. I couldn't help grinning myself.

Till then, my mind had been preoccupied with irrational fears...of not doing my homework, not taking the much needed decisions, not being able to reach the mark... Amazingly, all my worries had vanished in a flash at the sight of my 'Santa'. For now, my sister was here, and somehow it made me feel lighter. She'll know what to do about it all, like she did when there was lightning and thunder in our dimly lit room thirteen years ago.

" JEEENGLE BELLSSS!!"
My sister had reached me, and before I could take her luggage, she had already begun her blah-blah-ing. With all her zealous gestures and expressions, she looked like she was a character taken right out of an animated movie.
I waited for the moment to pass and my fears to return. But they didn't. They remained hidden as long as my sister was there...as if she was my patronus to drive away the dementor in my head. And then, looking at her, I realized that the solution to all my problems..... was to have a sister.

Happy Birthday sis :) <3



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