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All in a day’s work -1


One of those countless times when I had got busy with something else, while cooking something in a pressure cooker….the safety valve had melted.

I have been meaning to take the lid to the nearby shop to get a new valve fixed …but you know how it is.

Then this guy came along with all the paraphernalia for repairing gas stoves and cookers,accomodated on his rickety cycle.

The lid got fixed .

The burners of the stove, which too I had been meaning to get replaced as they had developed cracks, got replaced.

Took a nice sum from me on the claim that it was brass.

I did have an inkling that he was making that up even as he asked me to weigh them in my hand and emphasising how much more heavier they were compared to the discarded ones made from iron .

The valve too, he charged twice as much .I know that for sure because I had paid for an earlier replacement from the shop in the neighbourhood.

The paint came off after the first flames made the metal glow with heat .

And I fumed for a while at being knowingly taken in.

And then I thought of him, doing the rounds the whole day.

And I thought of all the merry rides we consumers are taken on by the fancy outlets and the corporate brands

And I forgave myself.

#allinadayswork

 

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My Dog..poem about lost dog by Emily Lewis


My Dog
by Emily Lewis
Have you seen a little dog,
Anywhere about?
A raggy dog, a shaggy dog
who is always looking out
for some fresh mischief
which he thinks he ought to do,
He’s very likely, at this minute,
biting someone’s shoe.

If you see that little dog,
his tail up in the air,
A whirly tail, a curly tail,
a dog who does not care
For any other dog he meets,
not even for himself,
Then hide your mats
and put your meat upon the shelf.

If you see that little dog,
barking at the cars,
A raggy dog, a shaggy dog,
with eyes like twinkling stars,
Just let me know
for though he’s bad as bad can be,
I wouldn’t change that dog
for all the treasures of the sea!

This is the poem , most of my seniors in school remember me by.

Many, many years later, a teacher from senior school, Ms. Bhagirathy, who was an aunt of one of our neighbours in Noida, came to stay with the nephew and his wife for a while. Walking past our house, she would look at me with a curious air , if she happened to spot me around.

I would exchange half a smile too, as she did look familiar.

The one day, she stopped in her tracks and said, “My dog?”

Let me tell you that this was some thirty years later.

I can just say that may be I had loved that imaginary dog very, very much and may be I had had a way of pouring my heart out , while reciting that poem 🙂 🙂

That poem had also got me my first ever trophy.

My father was very happy at my achievement and wanted to frame the moment. So, back from school, even before I had changed into my normal clothes , we set out to the “Vaman Studio” , which was where the entire town landed up for getting photos clicked and then framed for posterity.

My younger brother threw a tantrum , saying he wanted to come along and jumped into the auto , just as he was , in the midst of his barefooted running around.

Not just that, he insisted that he get into the vision of the camera lens.

To strike a balanced pose, the studio owner took out a rose from the vase on his table and asked him to hold it in his hand.

So now we have this photo in my album , to fish out when the family is in the rewind mode 🙂

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2020 in childhood, Personal, Poetry

 

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We didn’t start the fire


Don’t look so scared my dear friend
Yes I know the forest is on fire
I’ve flown above the burning trees
The flames are reaching higher and higher
Whole families have died or have fled
Your kind and mine and many others
Where its dry it’s flaming orange with no respite
In the surrounding green , the smoke smothers.

But I know that if you go along this way
As fast as your agile legs can run
You can get to the place where its safe
But rest not till the day is done.
There , when you reach the river’s edge
You’ll find others in the cool glades
The crowd is surging in that verdant space
There is togetherness and the comfort of shades.

Here, where they’ve planted strange new trees
That are fast to grow , with money to make
It’s as likely to burn up furious and fast
Leaving a parched land in its wake.
In yonder part of this forest, where I’ll guide you with care
This land is as it always was
With trees and creepers, weeds and flowers
Cool and fragrant and with dew on the grass.

So come along, let’s waste no time
Let’s hurry before the fire gets here
With its lashing, devouring , fiery tongue
And looming presence, stoking fear.
We’ll dance together in that circle of love
You’ll scamper around and I’ll spread my wings
We’ll all stay together and find our space
Listening to the breeze as through the trees

Picture credit: Dr. Vivek Banerjee , my Facebook friend

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2020 in Community, Love, Photography, Poetry

 

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A new day


The sun filters in
Through the open door
There’s brightness now
Where it was dark before.

The eaves grow warm
Under the palm thatch
The courtyard beckons
From its sunlit patch.

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2020 in Poetry

 

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Greece diary- Athens


First let me say, it’s great being back home in familiar spaces, familiar smells and familiar onslaughts on the taste-buds.
But I also have to add that travelling also helps forming a wholesome perspective and underlines the importance of hanging on to what is worthy of continuity , of giving a due place to the memories of our past and its heritage as at the same time, appreciating the dynamics of change.

The city of Athens is all of that, unfolding before the curious traveller to the once so ancient and now modern city, steeped in fables of pagan worship , which got absorbed somewhere within the new religion of orthodox Christianity which the majority (around 97%) of the populace are now part of . Catholics are around 1% and just a miniscule belong to other religions. Religion, however did not come across as a public affair.

When one had been studying about the Mediterranean type of climate in school, for some reason, the imagination had cooked up pictures of orchards of different fruits dotting the landscape and greenery all around. Greece would be like that , one had thought. May be it is like that in other parts of that country. But Athens wasn’t. The hills that we spied as the plane descended were pretty barren and rocky .

Many areas along the route that took us to the hotel that we were to check into, looked familiar, much like Karol Bagh in Delhi or Commercial Street in Bangalore would be .

But what struck us almost immediately was the friendliness of the people . The driver of the pick up vehicle gave us a warm welcome , assuring us that we would enjoy the city tour and the visit to the Accropolis the next day. He was proud of the fact that it was in Greece that democracy was born and how power came to be vested in the people. He was a little sceptical though, about how it was being played out in the present times.

“It is all about money now. You have money, you have power”
Now that there , was very familiar ground. “And family is important for us”…Yep as we saw in the “The Big Greek Wedding”, familiar too for us Indians.

“Yes…and the woman is boss”, he chuckled “The wife and the mother…very important…the man…he just goes out and works”…Try listening to those words in the Greek accent , rolling the “r”s 🙂

The young man at the reception was equally warm and welcoming. After we had settled in, we took his help to find a small eating place nearby before settling in for the night. We tried out the salad, which was quite ordinary , and chicken gyros which was good. We would be experimenting more on that front in the following days.
We had to skip breakfast at the hotel because the coach that would take us around along with several others to be picked up from various other hotels nearby, was to arrive early in the morning. He left instructions however for having breakfast boxes ready at the counter before we left.

Of the morning, I’m going to give you a virtual tour through the videos I had taken , most of them while sitting in the bus. But you will then be able to see and hear from our guide directly.

Angela was a treasure trove of stories about the ancient past of Greece. She has been in this job for 38 years. She had started working as a guide when she was just sixteen or so and continued doing so even after she went on to college, during the Summer holidays. Then she took up a teaching job in a college for about five years but went back to working as a full time guide, as she found that more flexible and conducive to bringing up her children. Angela must She has been working thus for 38 years now. She has been to India on two or three occasions, Delhi, Rajasthan and Gujarat.

“We share a lot in common , you know…worship of the forces of Nature , our connection to mother earth and so on ..”
I’ll load all the videos by and by , in the order the tour progressed.

These videos are of our morning drive through Athens beginning with the stadium where the first Olympics was held and ending at the Acropolis Museum and then walking up to the Acropolis itself.
Photography is allowed in only certain parts of the museum which now lodges most of the artefacts unearthed below the Acropolis.
At the Acropolis there was a very huge crowd, and this was almost the end of the season. Couldn’t imagine how it would be like during the peak of the tourist months.

It was hot and we were herded along, almost.
But it was an experience, standing there at the top of the hill, looking down at the city that had spread out gradually all around. Once, long, long ago when Athens had just come to be established, the populace would have scuttled to the safety behind the walls of the fortress that then stood invincible, as soon as enemy vessels were spotted approaching across the blue Aegean Sea.

It would have been kind of spooky had the dusk been settling around, the tall columns casting shadows and you were alone there.
But this was midday , in the midst of teeming hundreds , literally jostling for space .

Still, it was an experience.





 
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Posted by on October 23, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Elektra- malayalam film by Shyamprasad Rajagopal


“Elektra”, a film by Shyamaprasad Rajagopal , had not been released on the big screen because of some technical reasons. From the first frames onwards, as I watched it on Amazon Prime, I kept wishing it had.

The first thoughts that came to mind as the titles rolled on through the slow moving, fleeting images of a tiny puddle of water in a woody glade, the criss-crossing branches overhead, the tips of thin bamboo branches bending over the stream, the patches of brown wet earth around the closely growing trees, a barbed wire across which hung a few sprigs of tender green leaves lit up by the sun and others full of holes and hued with age, was how the element of music can imbue a scene with the emotions chosen for them, to set the mood so to speak.

Alphonse Joseph’s background scores definitely added a sense of sombre foreboding right from the very beginning.

Arrangements were being made for Abraham’s funeral. There is a mystery around his death as there had been, we learn , surrounding the deaths of many, many others in the “Amaram” tharavad, through their years of wealth and associated power. He had just returned from his estate in Jaffna, where he was rumoured to have a parallel life of love and lust, knowledge of which left his wife Diana cold and unresponsive to his intimacy on those occasions he chose to return to her. It also left her longing for love and a not so veiled anger towards her daughter Elektra, who adored her father and seemed to sponge away whatever tenderness he carried with him when he was with them. Diana’s resentment to both is accentuated by her strong feeling that they had been in complicity in sending away her son to Jaffna to be with Abraham. The son’s attachment to his mother, had been her sole rudder and with his going away, she felt closed in and drifting at the same time, hopeless and filled with longing to find an anchor in the swirling currents of despair.
That Diana finds release from the darkness of her existence in that huge sprawling house, which seemed to carry shadows of the inglorious deeds of its past occupants, in a secret affair with a cousin of Abraham, who had been kicked out of the family , creates further fury in Elektra’s mind, already seething with jealousy in having to share her father’s affections for her, with her mother.
The scenes go back and forth giving peeks into the disturbed mental frames of the mother and the daughter and for much of the time, the viewer is actually left guessing as to what is the truth of what they say and what is a figment of their illusions. Did Diana kill her husband towards fulfilling her aching desire for freedom and love? Did Elektra cause her father to have a heart attack by revealing the details of her mother’s extra-marital attachment?
Later , even when Abraham is interred, the complexities of the family he leaves behind, find even more bleak outpourings in words and acts. Elektra convinces her brother, who has returned from Jaffna , about his mother’s amorous trysts and about her suspicions of their father’s murder by Diana, by administering sleeping pills instead of his medicine for his heart problem. The scenes of that night are explicitly shown , but the audience is still not sure. Which of the versions is the truth? Did he die naturally of the agitation caused when Diana determinedly told him about her affair? Did she indeed hasten his death by giving the wrong medication?

The Amaram household , in spite of its grandeur, is covered in all shades of grey and black with very little light pouring in. The tones and filters used in filming the scenes ensures that the desolateness of the minds of its inhabitants seeps into you without respite. Demons lurk in all their minds.The daughter’s confused love for her father  sets her mother in her perturbed psyche, as th enemy. Her attempts at winning over his confidence in her the story about their mother’s misdeeds, their complicity in the murder of her paramour, Diana’s suicide thereafter, the son’s complicated attachment for his mother which then finds its way through incestuous hints towards his sister in perhaps a kind of transference, his tragic death …everything that follows adds darker and darker shades to the story .

You feel tense and sad with the awareness of the darkness that can take hold of human hearts in their longing for love, and their distorted perceptions of reality . You wonder about the extent of suffering each such individual goes through in the process and despair that their existences carry no chances of redemption , at least in the cases of those whose journey ends in the middle of those stretches of darkness.

There was another film by Ingmar Burgman I had watched long ago, about which i had written in an earlier blog.

https://nadirafromkannur.wordpress.com/tag/through-the-glass-darkly/

I went back to that blog after watching the film, to the conversation between the father and son towards the end of the film. That gave me some relief.

Shyamaprasad’s films always touches upon all kinds of shades of human psychology and the myriad complexities of relationships. I have found almost all of them very, very interesting, urging one to reflect and review our roles of the judge.

Nayantara as Elektra and Mainsha Koirala as Diana, were superb.

Biju Menon’s character as the police officer , who is also close to the family, did not leave any imprint , but raised a lot of unexplained doubts .

Who was the caller who told him about Abraham’s death being a murder early that morning? It couldn’t have been Elektra because she didn’t seem to have left the house that night or early in the morning after her father died. And she needn’t have gone out to telephone . She could have called him from the landline in the house. If it was Diana’s lover, why ? What did he stand to gain ?

The poor chap, the officer, who does nothing that he should have done to check on the suspicion of murder, wasn’t even given enough scope to dwell on his secret affections for Elektra or may be the Director decided to go slow on that aspect lest the spectator gets swamped.

And of course it is such a pleasure to take note of my friend Sakhi Elsa’s costume designing for the film. Loved them all.

The film has English subtitles.

And now i am waiting for Shyamaprasad’s next film based on the book of Anees Salim,”A small Town Sea”

I have already read the novel , but keenly waiting to watch the story unfold on the screen with the favourite Director’s stamp on it.

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2019 in Movies

 

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Family trip to Coorg, Karnataka


My father didn’t get along with most in our extended family. So there were very few occasions that we had, as kids of spending time with our cousins. Those occasional opportunities, for that very reason, stay fresh in the mind.

When my own kids were growing up, the annual vacation in Kerala was looked forward to keenly because it meant a lot of fun with their cousins .

In Delhi,where we worked and lived, it would be the peak of Summer, with dry hot Loo winds blowing in from the Rajasthan deserts (do any of you remember learning about the local winds in your geography lessons? The names I remember are those of The Mistral, Chinook and Sirocco)

Dust-storms were a regular feature , with just an occasional shower which would temporarily settle down the dust.

In the initial years after I settled down in Delhi, the journey home used to be very long and tiring. The train traversed the entire length of the country from the North to the South. By the time it reached Andhra Pradesh on the second day , across which it would chug along the whole day, the temperatures would be really high and in the second class compartment, the passengers would be listless and less talkative. Many would carry along with them earthenware water- carriers , which would often topple over because of the movement of the crowd and then, to avoid the place getting all wet and dirty, newspapers would be hastily spread out on the floor.
Yes, even the reserved compartments would be crowded because the closing down of school for the Summer vacations meant that almost all of the homesick Keralites would be headed to their home state. There at this time of the year, the monsoons would have arrived and to be able to breathe in the wetness in the air and feast one’s eyes on the greenery was considered well worth the patient waiting in long queues even before the arrival of dawn, or sometimes the whole night, in front of the reservation counters, three months in advance, to get your tickets booked and the tiresome , long journey.

Later on , one became entitled to free Ac travel, courtesy my job in the Railways and to make it even more enjoyable , the route now went along the Konkan stretch along the Western coast of the Southern Peninsular region with the Western Ghats on one side. If the monsoons had already commenced, the whole topography would become mesmerisingly beautiful, with the hills of the Western Ghats in the distance, being covered in blue mists, paddy being sown , or already standing high in the fields, the rain splashing across the glass windows of the coach or pounding on the roof and rivulets of red muddy water springing up and flowing along , all through the landscape.

Funtimes that one month was, both for us adults and the kids, catching up with family and loads of good stuff to devour.
Now when my nieces and nephews have all grown up and between them have a nice bunch of kiddos, one didn’t have to think too long before deciding to join in on the vacation trip that they had planned . Coorg was the destination , which comes alive during the monsoons.Both Kannur , my hometown , where they had all gathered and the holiday destination , are not far from where I am now settled in Bangalore.

But then, the rains have been playing truant this year and the whole of June had gone by with just a few miserly showers. It was a long drive from Kannur to Coorg in two fully packed vehicles.

Fortunately, the weather decided to be at its benign best and it did rain and nicely at that.

The place they had booked was a home-stay near Madikkeri called Indraprastha-The Willows.

The owners, Prasad Kariappa and Meen Kariappa, were a very friendly couple. Their kids had grown up and settled in different places. The gentleman had started building this place thirty years ago. “He is still not done with it”, the wife complained.
“It is his passion and he goes on and on, adding this or that. But maintenance is such a problem. We don’t get workers nowadays to attend to even the plumbing problems”

Their home is beautiful inside, with the entire walls done with wood panelling. They didn’t have to buy a single piece of wood and every bit came from their holdings which spread over fourteen acres of land, in which the dwelling stands and another forty acres of plantation elsewhere in which coffee, pepper, arecanut and cardamom are being grown.

“My daughter says, we should plant at least a thousand trees to compensate for the ones that had been cut down for the house”, Meena told us with a half smile.

The homestay facility was upstairs. There was enough space for all of us to be accommodated. There were a few plumbing issues and no, it was not swanky in any sense. Maintenance did indeed seem to be a problem. The place reminded me of Meryl Streep’s place in “Mama Mia”

It was evening by the time we reached there .The crickets arranged for a really loud orchestra to welcome us. It was far away from the main road and there were no other sounds of the city encroaching on us at the getaway.

We had an early dinner , with plans to accompany Mr. Prasad on his morning tour through his plantation. Had lots of fun playing dumb charades before hitting the bed.

I slept like a log, but in the morning there were tales to be told by some of the others of a cat slinking in through the gap between the eaves and the roof and jumping on to the dining table and eating up quite a large chunk of the bread. As the door had been kept open at sunset time, mosquitoes had also found their way in keeping some awake with their buzzing and bits.

We went to Thalakavery the next morning, the plantation trip having been given up because the Boss wasn’t feeling too well. Then to the Abby Falls post lunch.

Before we came away , we spent some time chatting with the pleasant couple. Their drawing room was now a mini-museum of sorts. He had been collecting tools and other articles related to their early ways of life, mostly associated with farming and mostly made from bamboo and cane. There were contraptions to catch fish, to castrate bulls, to collect cow-dung from the behinds of the cattle that would stray in the fields , even before they hit upon the ripe grains that were waiting to be harvested, hulls for the oxen, caskets of cane , a bamboo hat that would cover the head and back, of those working in the fields , as they bent down to sow or add manure or harvest the crop, an old kerosene lamp, pouches and an old suitcase and lots of other stuff. He brought out a double barrelled gun too which had been with the family for a very long time and the dagger like weapon which was part of their traditional attire. The handle of the knife had been carved in ivory by Mr. Kariappa himself. Carving was his passion and there were many other items there , which he had carved out of wood.

They belonged to the Kodava group, who were the original inhabitants of Coorg. Later on, tribal populations from Wynad and Tamil Nadu had been brought in to work on their farms and these tribal settlers had then become part of the demography of Coorg , as had those who had come in to do and set up shops and other business ventures.
“Now we have become the minority and we have been given none of the concessions that have been made available to the others. We are now fighting for being included in the OBC list and also for autonomy. We’ll be going to Delhi In November to sit in protest at the Jantar Mantar” in the capital city,New Delhi.

Coorg or Kodagu , had in fact been declared as an independent state in 1950 . It was later on that it was made part of Karnataka, Meena told us. She did most of the talking . She had a very lively and friendly presence. Her husband was happy to fill in . No, he was not from the Army , he replied with a smile when we remarked upon his moustache. He and his four brothers had all along been working on their plantations.

Take note, the 14 acres plus 40 acres had been the share of this one brother alone.

So why would they need any concessions, then? We asked politely. We were indeed curious.

“People like us are the fortunate few. Most of the Kodava people are poor, many even below the poverty line. It is for them that we are fighting now. “, Meena explained.
One learnt from the material available on the Internet that land reforms had led to many of the erstwhile landowners , having had to give up much of their land, gradually leading them to penury.

It was a good break, all told and my grandson Zo had a whale of a time.

Nothing like travel to fill in the time taken off from the regular classes in school.

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2019 in Travel

 

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