Sunday, July 29, 2007

Hogi barthene*

Mr and Mrs Rao were my neighbors. They were a happy couple, simple and friendly. They had two sons, both working in India. Soon their eldest son took up a job in the US and left taking his family with him. The second son too followed. Mr and Mrs Rao though alone lived a full life, going to the temple and the various Brahmin prayer meetings, get together etc. Soon age started taking its toll and both of them were hospitalized at various times for various ailments.

Their eldest son came down and took them to live with him. Though the couple was happy, they missed India and the land of their birth, Mysore . Soon Aunty learnt to email and my mom and the other ladies in the neighborhood got regular emails from Mrs Rao, regaling us with tales of two bumbling old Indians and their misadventures in the US. Aunty had an earthy sense of humor and an ever-present smile under her diamond nose studs, while uncle was a kind and humble man. Maybe I am shrouding them with an aura of saintliness, but my memories of them are very warm.

They came down soon after for a wedding and a break from the US winter. The wedding, meeting relations and the spirituality of the place tugged at their heartstrings and they decided not to go back.

But life was a struggle alone, as their siblings were old too and they soon faced the prospect of going back to the US. Their search for an old age home in Bangalore was futile and soon they were winging their way back to the US. Uncle fell sick and died in the US. The family came down to India for the burial. Aunty was inconsolable and died two months after Uncles death. Fortunately for her she met her end in Mysore, her hometown. The town where she as a little girl helped her grandfather with the temple rituals and met and fell in love with Uncle during a Dassara music recital.

Aunty died two months ago. When I look at their now empty house and the tulsi plant in the courtyard I feel an awful emptiness. This place bustled with energy and activity a few years back. I had grown up watching her perform pooja in front of the tulsi plant from my balcony. The waft of the agarbaththi spreading gently in the wind mingling with the smell of freshly roasted coffee beans that she would have ground and put in the percolator before doing the morning pooja. I will give my right arm for another steel tumbler of that heavenly coffee she used to make many years ago. She taught me how to drink without touching the tumbler to my lips, the Brahmin way. I learnt a lot of Brahmin rituals and traditions from her as she loved puttering around the garden with me.

After pooja she would always look up to smile at the little girl on the balcony who watched her intently almost hypnotized by the ritual. She would wave or sometimes cheekily blow a kiss blushing at the act and giggling. I don’t think I ever missed a single pooja except on weekends when I slept late. She looked radiant in her silk saree that seems to be a daily wear for Brahmin ladies in Karnataka. Her hair would be adorned with fresh jasmine and her silver anklets tinkled as she went around the tulsi plant. For a Christian kid like me this was an engrossing sight.

I remember the various Dasara’s we celebrated together and the amazing sweets aunty made. I remember Uncle pleading with us kids to keep quite as their sons were in final year Engineering College and needed some peace and quite to finish their studies. I remember aunty scolding Uncle for telling us to keep quite and then telling us indulgently to make as much noise as we can and uncles mock exasperation at her lenience with us, the noisy neighborhood brats. I remember the hot obattu that would land up at home whenever she prepared some at home. Tea time was synonymous with aunty’s obattu. So many good memories….

I took so much for granted. So many people for granted. But people around me are aging. Soon they will be gone. But Mrs Rao’s death has taught me something. That time is so precious, especially with your loved ones.

Rest in peace Mrs Rao. Dassara and Mysore and the neighborhood will never be the same without you.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Hope lies beyond the border...

My mail box is flooded. Seems like it is placement time in Kerala colleges. Words like Tata Motors, Accenture, Infosys, Maruti is floating around my Inbox like happy confetti. These are joyful mails from my cousins announcing their placements.

In this happy cacophony there is one sad note...of a cousin sister who is placed at a leading IT company in Trivandrum Technopark. When my mother called her to congratulate, she burst into tears. She is the only one in my family who has been placed in Kerala. The rest are all leaving to Mumbai, Bangalore, Gurgaon, Pune etc.

This year itself there are nearly 12 students from my family alone who are leaving Kerala. So you can imagine the volume of freshers leaving Kerala this year. These people have counted the days to finish their college and leave. They love their State, town, language just like you and me. But as educated thinking adults they can sense that the present "political culture" will not change for a long time and they are in no mood to be willing victims of a system when they have a way out. They are fed up of the closed mentality and the humiliations and helplessness of belonging to the silent majority while the powerful minority of goons rules the roost and the throne. Escape is the only way.

Soon they will join the "reminiscence" crowd that misses the carefree days of college, life in Kerala and naadan cuisine from the safety of Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi etc. And the cycle will repeat itself every year.

Best of luck to you all !!! Do well in your professional and personal lives. I hope and I pray that when you guys are ready to hang up the boots, Kerala would have changed and you will be making a beeline to your true home and hearth that God willing would have earned the sobriquet "God's Own Country".

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Sour gripes

On my desk lies a variety of colorful stuff, or at least it used to till some time back. I have a jar of Jelly Sweets, toffees, candies, Jeera Sweets, a colorful container full of pens, pencils, erasers, whiteboard markers etc. Besides the sheer color, it adds a welcoming touch to my desk. These things are specifically kept on my desk so that anyone can help themselves to it.

Now my desk is barren.

The reason? People in my office just "love" the knick knacks on my table and love to drop by for a sweet. They think I am "so sweet" to be doing this. Some even develop an addiction for Jelly Sweets and go ‘Cold Turkey’ if they do not have one every hour. They keep talking of buying the same for their desk but apparently cannot because they are 'dieting'!!

They "must" have some Jeera sweet after lunch. It becomes a habit and after lunch droves of people land up opening the jars and generally hanging around eating the same and chatting. Sometimes I think I should just vacate my chair so that people can sit down comfortably and eat and chat at my desk. These people “just love” the Jeera sweets but regretfully cannot keep some for themselves because they will keep popping it in their mouth and hence consume too many unwarranted calories.

And if even once the jar is empty I get odd looks and enquiries as to when it will be filled or patronising jibes about my laziness to go shopping.

To makes things worse it takes some time for the whole floor to know when your stocks are low and the result is that people keep dropping now and then. This means irritating questions like "what no sweets?" when it obvious the desk is empty to annoying taps on your shoulders as you are logged into a conference call, with people whispering "where is the sweets?" . The whisper is to ensure that your conference call is not disturbed!!

People stopped using their pens because my pen holder was there to make use of. Of course no one except a few bother to return it. Some will even make a small noise of irritation if they come to my desk and see the pen holder empty. And these are not even my team mates!!

Now my desk is bare. I hate it. I love the color the jars brought to my table and friends dropping by for a sweet or some toffee. But then there are people out there who think they can take your generosity for granted.

My desk is bare now but my cupboard is not. But it is firmly locked :)

Monday, July 16, 2007


A mail I got from an unknown blogger recently.

I am ABC. I came to your blog via Kerala Blog Roll.Add me to your blogroll. See you there, Bye.

I wrote back that the people who figure in my blogroll are people I read 'regularly' and I would definitely add his blog if I find his writings interesting. He writes back.

Ok,start reading my blog 'regularly' and add me quick.

Of course I never replied back.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The young and the helpless...

Just saw the news and was shocked to hear of a poor father who pushed his small daughter down a bridge into the river hoping it will kill her. The reason...the child suffers from a rare disease and it will take at least Rs 2 lakh to treat her. The father is a poor laborer with 5 other children. What more can be an outstanding example of the vicious circle that grips our poor and marginalized? Man is poor. He doesn’t know about contraception. Has numerous kids who are potential bread earners for the family. But if they become ill then they are potential disasters for the family.

I am not pointing fingers at anyone here. But I can feel the father’s pain and desperation here. I am not condoning what he did, but what could he do? Would anyone shell out the money to treat his kid? And even if there are organizations who do that how is a poor illiterate man to know whom to approach? He did what he could do to alleviate his child's pain. Poverty doesn’t give you too many choices.

News like this though shocking is something we read and ignore in a hurry because we ourselves are helpless. We can only feel pity or anger at the father or at the system.

The news will attract attention. Funds will pour in from kind individuals. And the child who was rescued will get good treatment. But there are many parents out there who are unable to treat their kids and have to silently watch them suffer and die. What can be more heartbreaking? Knowing that your kid could have been saved but you had no means to save him or her!?

I know it is easy to blog about this and make the right kind of noises. But right now I can feel the helplessness of the father of that little girl. What he did was horrific, but none of us can point a finger at him unless we have done our little for the welfare of the poor.

Addendum: Latest report on the little girl

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Those were the days...

Another Home for the Aged Fest is around the corner. The Fest bring so many memories of joyful IT less old Bangalore.

October is the time we cut the fruit for the Christmas cake and soak it in Rum or Brandy. October is when we start our Christmas Carol practices too. October is when we have the Fest also known as Charity Bazaar at the Little Sisters of the Poor 'Home for the Aged', Hosur Road. This is the time I get up in the morning to the smell of baking and cooking as my mom starts preparing her contribution to Bazaar…the proceeds from the sales are given to the nuns to run the Oldage home. This is a unique bazaar where the entire Catholic Community of Bangalore comes together and contributes their time or various items to be sold at the various stalls. When I was in school and college we usually manned the games stalls. This is a day of family outing and fun that we look forward to every year.

There is a large population of Goans and Mangaloreans and East Indians settled here from many generations. They evolved the now famous Bangalore Culture. Soon Malayalees too started coming into Bangalore and many like us were assimilated into this community. We learnt a lot from this community. Community spirit, sharing and most importantly, religion as a way of life and not a Sunday activity restricted to Sunday Mass, getting together with family and friends on Fridays and Saturdays and Sundays or any other excuse for a drink and the uniquely traditional Sunday lunch.

In this community, boys and girls grow up together and one will never see men and women sitting separately at parties and get togethers. Drinking alcohol in this community is as natural as drinking water. And young boys grow up treating alcohol as no big deal. They learn to drink responsibly. And as get togethers are frequent, the need to imbibe alcohol just for fun is also non existent. Which is why this community drinks for pleasure and never to get drunk.

I grew up taking such a life for granted. It was later as I grew into my teens that I found the striking dissimilarity in this culture and the Kerala culture (?) on my visits to Kerala and to relations place here in Bangalore. I found the whole of concept of the ladies sitting and gossiping in one room and then men sitting and drinking in another absolutely stupid. And when these two groups did talk to each other (more as a formality), the men would talk condescendingly about the ladies shopping sprees and the ladies would joke about the men’s drinking. All very prim and propah segregated meaningless conversation and interaction.

Those days most of us lived in the Bangalore cantonment area. So getting together was easy. Carol singing was also easy. Today all those old homes have been sold to developers and most of the families have moved into the flat given to them by the developers or have moved to the suburbs. We had some great dances at the Catholic Club then, as curfew was unheard of. We went in groups for the dances and after the dance jumped the wall into St Patrick’s for the 5:30 am mass and then went home and crashed out.

We attended Sunday Mass as a group and then went for breakfast at some Darshini. Breakfast after Mass is a unique Bangalore tradition and most eateries would be filled with families having breakfast on Sundays. However I must thank IT because it provided employment and most of my friends and classmates are employed here in Bangalore.

Bangalore had a name for some of the coolest private parties… parties where people enjoyed dancing, sing song sessions and not what outsiders thought…i.e getting pissed drunk and misbehaving. Later as the IT crowd started coming into Bangalore, desperate for action, the segregating of the ‘old Bangalorean’ and ‘new Bangalorean’ started taking place. We keep our distance from the ‘new Bangaloreans’. Many of the so-called ‘new Bangaloreans’ have imbibed the spirit of old Bangalore. And I feel glad to see that. Today I have colleagues begging me for an invite to our do’s because “you guys party like no on else’. It is the greatest compliment I have ever received. They have learned to relax and enjoy the evening without getting dressed to kill and enjoy people’s company without wondering what their net worth is.

When I see, newcomers calling themselves ‘Bangaloreans’ I can only sneer. These guys don’t even know what being a Bangalorean all is about.

But I still miss my old Bangalore :(

Thursday, July 05, 2007

If I could stop time...

A year older, a year wiser I hope. Happy birthday to me!

I am in an overly senti mood today :p Partly due to overwork and sheer tiredness and mostly due to coming home after a week and realising how much I missed home and my family. So people who dont like senti better close your IE/Firefox and run for your life cos today I wanna acknowledge some people in my life who keep me going. These people are the bulwark of my life.

First and foremost two wonderful people, my amma and achchan who bought me into this world because they 'wanted' me.

Mitu: My best friend, who is always there though she is so far away now.

Sunitha: Just your presence in my life is enough blessings for me.

M: Dumbo, you are the greatest.

S: Younger bro of M, for being the sweet brat you are with the wisdom of a 100 year old.

SP who inspired/goaded/nagged me to blog. I am so thankful you came into my life when you did.

Trish, for being a sis I never thought I would have.

Chanel, for your down to earth attitude. Girl you are my reality check!!!

Jisha, my sis from another mother.

Chithra, for your undying faith in me.

Pavithra: My clone.

JK for being there always. Sometimes I think I dont deserve a friend like you.

Chacko: Dude u rock!!!

Seb: My cousin bro....for driving sense into me when I needed it most last year. For making me realise who I am, where I come from and my legacy.The guy who is responsible for My Think Pad. When I look at you I realise how the "K" family will always be there for each other. I remember the days we the cousin brigade slept in the same room, telling ghost stories late into the night and the fun we had as kids. I owe you a lot of good memories!

My bro M, for always being there. For tolerating my overdependence on him, from a tyre puncture to a drop at the mall to picking me up from work and driving me all over town looking for that 'Nursery' that sells that 'exotic plant' I 'think' I read about somewhere. Somehow, in his scheme of things this brat was always a 'somebody' never a 'nobody'.

My eldest bro G for his unabashed adulation for every crap I write.

My wonderful large family back in Kerala, for their fierce loyalty and undying love. I find my identity in you guys.

My blogpals for your lovely posts and thoughts that are my mainstay during tough days. Keep blogging I rather read your posts than anything else. In fact nowadays I prefer the down to earth writings of bloggers to the "commercial writings" that journalism seem to have become.

JP, a friendship I will always cherish.

And 'Vagamon'. Naah this is not a hot dude, but a place where I find so much peace.

Guess I have a lot to thank for this July 6th.

p.s I am on leave for my budday. Yay!!!!!!