Friday, March 31, 2006

St. Hope

Last Monday my aunt died of Liver Cancer at the age of 75. She died quickly and painlesslessly within months of diagnosis. She was an amazing human being. Born into a family of six sisters her Dad was the first Indian Collector of some district. She wrote stories for little kids, which appeared regularly in Deccan Herald. Each of the sisters is accomplished in their own way. For her funeral mass all the sisters got together and put up one of the best choral performances I have ever seen. One of her sisters even sang a lovely solo at the funeral service.

Her last days were spent at St. Johns Hospital Bangalore. An institution I have grown to love over the years. In fact the place was like a second home some time back because my brother would invariably get admitted for broken limbs, back strain and once even a minor bike accident. I have numeorus cousins working here besides my brother's friends here, which means that we never had to get in the queue for anything and everything was taken care of by his doctor/Intern friends. The hospital has grown as wing after wing have been constructed to accommodate the growing number of people coming here for good medical treatment at reasonable rates. This hospital is also the last stop for people who have tried their hands at the Manipals and Mallya’s. The good doctors here can always be relied on for anything.

A few years back my brother got admitted here for a Sinus problem. The Professor who is friend of the family wanted to some procedure under anesthesia before deciding on surgery. The previous day my brother and his Intern friends got together in his hospital room and had a gala time playing cards and drinking. Somewhere along the way they lost count of the drinks and it was 2 am !!! The procedure was scheduled at 6 am or so. It was then that the ‘doctors’ realized that they had a potential career disaster in their hands. In their inexperience they didn’t realize that the anesthesia would not work after imbibing alcohol. Beside the Prof. knew that these guys were my brother’s friends. So a plan was hatched and my brother was told to bear up the pain and keep quite.

Of course things are not that simple and after many an 'ouch’ and 'aargh’ from my brother under the Prof's examinations the Prof. demanded an explanation and on being given one in bits and pieces by the really scared Interns proceeded to tongue lash the Interns and the wide awake ‘patient’ in the surgery room right in front of other staff. Later he told my Dad that he went to his cubicle and laughed like never before in his career!!

My brother even knows a way in after visiting hours. It is slightly complicated but even the Security people don’t know this flaw in their ‘airtight’ system. This hospital has many sad- sweet memories for me. The sad memories include holding my friends Mom while she went to identify her body. My friend who was riding pillion was hit from behind by a Sumo when her friend who was driving the bike jammed the brakes suddenly. It was not the Sumo driver’s fault and he even bought her to St. Johns where she breathed her last. Last week was my friend’s third death anniversary. She was an only daughter with two brothers like me. May your soul rest in peace S.

Friday, March 24, 2006

@ Work

Two weeks back a new Marketing Manager joined us. She is an IIMite. That makes it two girls in our department including me. However her opening sentence to me after introductions caught me off guard. She asked me rather severely if I was in charge of the rather ‘badly’ done collaterals in the company. Luckily my Boss had gone back to his cabin or Madam would have got a mild reprimand right in front of me. I looked at her squarely in the eye and told her that I was indeed incharge of the ‘tastefully’ done collaterals. That was it; she declared a sort of unofficial war from that day. Over the next week she went out of her way to harass my team mates prompting me to send her a mail that all work sheets has to routed through me and she cannot approach my team on her own. So she would wait for me to leave my cabin and then go and disturb them at work. Boss was traveling and I really didn’t want to call him over such a petty issue. Finally the proverbial straw broke my patience when she went and loaded the graphic designers with some work disrupting a long queue of work from other departments. I put a halt to all her work and called my Boss. He chuckled and sent her a mail telling her to read the departmental procedures before she formally took over the reins of her marketing zone. The mail did the trick, she came and apologized and guess what??? Beneath all that haughtiness and arrogance she is actually a nice person!!!! This incident taught me a valuable lesson and that was not to lose to my cool and stick to my guns. I have to give credit for this to my team lead from whom I took over. Wherever you are, Madhusudan I owe you a lot.

On a lighter note, we are trying for a Solutions Architecture Award that has been implemented using XYZ. I filled up the necessary details in the form from the marketing and sales side and sent it to the technical head for his input on the solutions architecture. He sent me a written document with lots of apologies for his poor language skills etc. I told him not to worry and that I would polish the language before submitting the Project Report. I opened the document to see that he had written about the architecture in six sentences and there was not a single English word that I could understand. The only readable English words were the ‘articles’ that held the sentences together. I looked at it for some time and then started giggling and finally collapsed with laughter. Our Chief Sysadmin who was uncharacteristically wandering on the ‘dreaded’ marketing floor came to enquire what the joke was all about. All I could do was point to the document while I clutched my aching tummy. He read the document with a growing smile and then called the technical team who came rushing laptop and all. Soon my cabin was looking like a battle station with five laptops and five techies gravely explaining the whole architecture in ‘simple’ language that would fox even Bill Gates !!! I kept on laughing and the techies grew more worried. Finally my Chief Sysadmin took a spiral pad and drew the whole thing and explained it to me in ‘actual’ simple terms. I was finally able to edit the Project Report but refrained from whetting it with the technical head because I knew he would never understand the ‘englisized’ document. After submission, the coordinator of the award committee from US called and told me a couple of hilarious jokes from the Project Reports submitted by various companies. The poor girl was as foxed as me with the Technical people. All in all it was a laugh riot :))

I missed the car pool and called home to send the car to pick me up. While waiting to cross the road a transformer burst sending sparks all over me and a huge power cable came crashing down and fell within inches of where I was standing. What a day !!!!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

My First Holy Communion

I received my First Holy Communion at the age of eight. My grandparents and tradition decreed that eight was the appropriate age.As is the tradition the ceremony was held at my Moms place in Kerala. A cousin brother Tommy also received his First Holy Communion with me. We both would go for the Catechism classes at the Church where I was baptized. The place where I come from in Kerala is a completely Catholic area. The entire community therefore knew about our First Holy Communion. Whether we were playing outside or generally running around the fields people passing by would stop to ask us if we had by learnt the prayers. Then came the twist in the tale. People would go and tell Tommy that I had learnt all the prayers and vice versa. Both of us would then all worked up at the competition and anxiously study our prayers and Catechism. We both passed our test with flying colors largely due to the rivalry created by the folks in the village :)

Then came the day of Confession. All my cousin brothers and sisters helped me compile a list of sins, because at age eight I did not even know what sin was. I had a pitiful and handful number of sins to my credit and all of them were committed against my second brother like pulling his hair, writing in his class notebook and letting out air from his bicycle. However with a lot of help from everybody around I had a decent list of sins to my credit to Confess. The Confession went off well watched by anxious parents, Uncles and Aunts. My Uncles teased me when it was over saying that it was the longest confession in the history of the Church!!!

Next day, which was a Sunday, the Church was booked for the First Holy Communion. It was a special Mass. The church was packed with relatives from both sides, that is Tommy’s and mine. An aunt in the US had sent a lovely lace frock for my First Holy Communion complete with lace gloves and veil. Tommy’s Uncle from Dubai had sent him a Double breasted White Suit!!!! The result was very uncomfortable. In the Kerala heat, lacy dresses and double-breasted suits are a disaster. I was very uncomfortable with the paraphernalia that I was wearing and I can only imagine the acute discomfort of Tommy in the suit. I don’t remember much of the ceremony because the lace kept itching and the glove made my hands sweat.

Somehow the ceremony got over and after the mandatory photographs with all and sundry the entire entourage moved to my Moms Tharavadu for the feasting. It is a tradition in my part of Kerala (more of a chauvinism) that at least four kinds of meats should be served at an important occasion like this. So there was Beef, Chicken, Duck, Fish and Mutton. My Dad must have been collecting booze from the day I was born, for it was flowing like water and even the priest got drunk! As soon as I reached home, my Mom’s sister got me out of the lace costume much to my relief and made me wear normal clothes. It was like a burden lifted off my shoulders literally because the dress was heavy. After that it was fun playing with my cousins and generally being the center of attraction. Today Tommy flies for an US airline as a Pilot and whenever we meet or email we still talk about the rivalry that was created between us all those years ago.

I don’t know why the people are in such a tearing hurry to make their kids go through First Holy Communion at such a young age. Recently I was helping my cousin sisters's daughter prepare for her First Holy Communion ( as I am her Godmother) and I went through the whole routine again, this time understanding it better. I know for a fact that my little niece doesn’t even know what’s happening like me all those years ago.

All in all it was a nice experience and I got some 20,000 Rosaries and Bibles as presents :))

Sunday, March 19, 2006


I was reading this post by mindcurry today. It took me back a few years when I turned 12. My first thought on my 12th birthday was “oh no, I am no longer a kid, my parents will not love me like they did before!” But nothing changed. Now a decade later nothing has changed. I am still their little girl they fuss over, though I do a bit of fussing over them too. I am happy for these constants in my life, my Dad, Mom, brothers and some cousins and aunts and uncles. My parents are from an agricultural background. Their people are some of the nicest Malayalaees that I have met. Simple, hardworkind, loving and absolutely crazy about us kids. Even though my Dad has six brothers there was no haggling over family property and subsequent enmity that happens in Syrian Catholic homes and the brothers have a respect for each other that is so heart warming to watch. When I hear about property disputes, I thank God that a piece of land did not tear my Dad’s or Mom’s family apart as it has done to so many families. I can walk into my Uncles homes, which are close to each other and feel the special bond between our families. And what is more heart warming is that their wives get along so well too. These ladies are from six different families but come together for any function, help each other out, go to church together and fight over who gets to oil my hair and plait it !! I am the only niece for my uncles and hence a bone of contention for the aunties!!! In fact one of the most enduring memories from child hood was coconut oil and eyebrow pencil.Everyday one aunt or the other would oil my hair and plait it, then take the eyebrow pencil and draw a long line vertically on my forehead, which is a Keral style 'pottu' or 'bindi'. Then my eyes would be lined with the eyeliner till I looked like a raccoon!! Then each aunty would take me to their maternal homes to show me off :) I think I used to look horrendous but bore up all the attention I got as a price for being the only girl in the family :)

Today I hear about yet another family that has split apart because of land dispute. What is it with us mallus and land? We are so greedy for any cent we can pick up that we will even throw our old parents out to appropriate land. While growing up the most common topic for family discussions in Kerala was property wars being fought by some family or other. It saddened me. Why are property disputes so complicated? Why can’t they just share it equally and remain as a family?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Swami Enterprises

Though the fever is down I am still a little foggy in the head. After a really long snooze in the afternoon I went to sit outside on my favorite perch, my balcony. From here I can see the green expanse of the villages and farms to my left and the houses to my right. The fields next to my house are a fresh green from yesterdays showers and the pond herons and Herons are having a field day catching small fries. It looks so refreshing to the eye.

I can see the road in front of my house. I see Swamy surrounded by about 15 kids from the village as he makes Pani Puri, Bhel Puri, Fruit Salad, Vegetable sandwhich etc from his push cart. When I was small Swamy used to sell Cucumber and Tomatoes. Then he slowly started keeping chilli powder and salt because people kept asking for it. So he would sell cucumber as well as a cucumber salad to passers by. Soon he added some bread and started making Cucumber sandwiches with his own 'masala'. Overtime he gave up selling vegetables and now makes a pretty penny making all sorts of shredded vegetable mixtures that he fills into bread, pani puri shells or simply sells the shredded vegetables tossed in his own 'masala'. He has put on weight, his kids go to school and he has a really good cart now. What is amazing is that people from all walks of life come to buy his stuff. He is an amazing example of enterprise that enfolded right in front of my very own eyes.

He stops in front of my house, sees my mom and asks her how I was doing. My mom points to me on the balcony and he chides me for sitting outside when I am just recovering from fever. To please him I go inside and get back after he has trundled back into the village to his pucca house which he built entirely out of his savings from this business. Hats off Swamy. You are the spirit of enterprise that I hope sweeps rural India.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

International Women's Day!

International Women’s Day has come and gone and not a single mag or newspaper I read has pointed out to a lady and said “ And this lady has done wonders in the field of child rearing,cooking, baby sitting, sacrificing her happiness for her kids and her career by being a house wife” . How many people actually honored the unsung housewife? I for one would like to nominate my Mom as a super achiever as wife, mom and housekeeper par excellance.

She bought up three kids single handedly when my Dad was in the gulf. Her first born was the stuff mommy dreams are made of. Quite, obedient, helpful etc. The second two were recurring nightmares. Hyperactive, disobedient and cranky. No maid would touch us with a barge pole. They would tell my mom “give us baba, we will look after him” Now baba was the first born who didn’t need looking after...seriously.

So my mom handed me over to my Chetan and took upon herself to look after my second brother. Now you might wonder why she needed to devote herself to look after him exclusively? Because his idea of entertainment was to run across the main road, climb trees and break limbs, pull dogs by their tails and get bitten etc. He never learnt from his mistakes and went after more trouble. He even pulled a pony’s tail and missed its kick, which could have shattered his 5 year old bones. She had to keep an eye on him every second of the day and night!

Now my mom was not the quintessential housewife who made sure that food was cooked and served on time and we were bathed, fed and in bed on time. She had the time to sit with us with Encyclopedia's and instilled in us the reading habit. TV was a strict no no. Only Discovery Channel and later National Geographic and Animal Planet were allowed. For my brothers an additional concession of Sports Channels were given. One of the reason why we are not so hooked onto TV.

And then my Dad came back and soon got busy with setting up his business. After a hard days work he didn’t want to come home and discipline the kids. He preferred to play with us or sit quietly while we climbed all over him :) So my moms hope of halving her parenting duties were dashed :)) But she managed with a smile and the occasional grumbling :))

Now please don’t tell me that she was not a working woman because she was a housewife!

I would like to dedicate this International Women’s Day to my mom.

Some people arrgh

Today morning I woke up feeling a lil better.So had a bath and went outside to sit in the sun...yes!!! I am feeling that cold :)) My neighbour aunty, a pesky old lady sees me and starts on that irritating question session. It was too late for me to dart indoors. So she starts off "sicka?" I nod and say 'yes' and then she asks the next stupid question the likes of which makes me see red everytime "Why?" grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

"I dunno aunty, I'll ask the Virus" I say through gritting teeth and walk stroll off indoors.She is from Nagercoil and will drop into our house the moment she sees relatives and desperately try to pass herself off as a Malayalee. When her relatives are down she switches over to Tamil. I don't know why people are like this? Tamil is such a great language. And Tamilians are people I admire majorly. They are one of the few people who take great pride in their language, culture and traditions. Just go to Jagan's blog or any other Tamil bloggers blog and see the way they comment and converse in Tamil. Makes me feel so good. Unlike us mallus, you will rarely see a Tamilian insisting on a 'fair convent educated' girl when it comes to marriage. They are such a contended people with no hang ups.

Sick :(

Tuesday evening I came home with a raging fever.I knew that all I had to do was lie down and I would be kaput for the next few days. So I published the new post in my other blog and went to sleep. It has never been so bad. My mom is down too, so no more kashayam treatment for me. Though the maids and my aunty are making sure that we get plenty of sleep. They needn’t bother for I cannot move my body :) Guess I am down and out for the week.

I welcome the break from work though ;)

p.s. took a couple of Crocins to be able to sit and reply to comments.

Monday, March 06, 2006

A solemn day..hic

Coming month is my grandma’s death anniversary. I do not remember the number of years since her death but remember that I was approximately 8 years old. She died at a ripe age of 86. So the general atmosphere in the Tharavadu or anscestral house was not one of mourning but nevertheless solemn. My grandparents come from a large family and so the rush of relatives in the house was immense.

My second brother and me soon got bored of the proceedings. People were reciting the rosary and relatives were talking in hush hush voices. We wandered off to the next parambu or an estate. The neighbor uncle was one of our favorite uncles. In our place in Kerala houses are afar apart separated by rubber estates. So it is quite a walk to the neighbor’s house. We reached his house in good time and he was so happy to see us. This uncle was the type of uncle you read about in fairy Tales. The moment he would see me, he would hide both his arms behind his back and say : “Guess what I have in my hands?” It would usually be a little chicken, a baby squirrel or one of the little kids his goat had given birth to.

He immediately bought two glasses of kallu or Toddy, freshly tapped from the coconut tree. It was a Sunday and the ritual in my village is Toddy and beef fry before lunch.
The toddy smelled good and was slightly foamy. My brother drank with gusto; I did take a sip or two but didn’t quite like it. After that Uncle, Aunty their teenage kids and both of us returned to the house for the funeral. By the time we reached the house both of us were tipsy. We managed to stand still for the long funeral proceedings mostly due to the large number of people because of whom we were overlooked.

But I remember nothing of the funeral because I was soo drunk :)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Jotting down my thoughts...

Welcome to my think pad... :)

As I get ready to enter the Corporate World as an employee and not as an Intern that I am right now, the shocks of real life, people and their circumstances are beginning to rush and hit me head on. I hope this blog helps me comes to grips with life outside the safe confines of home and college.

I always wanted a space where I can write down my observations on things that strike me during the day. So this is a place to avoid if you don't want to hear questions like "why do we cut down trees?" or "why can't we live and let live" etc and more in that vein.

Thanks to Leon again for helping me create this blog. He helped me a lot in my other blog too by putting in the Tecnorati and Indian bloggers Icons and code. Thanks Leon for helping this technically challenged person look so tech savvy :))

Have a nice week folks :)