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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Deus Ex Machina

one of my walks took me to a temple on the third main. even if there was no arched gateway with half-clad, life-sized idols beckoning passersby to look inside, i would not have missed it. the strong sandalwood smell filled the road and so did the smoke from the wood fire burning somewhere in its recesses. did i smell freshly cooked prasadam? 

chang was unceremoniously unstrapped from his pram, the bag of groceries was tucked in the bottom hole of the contraption and selvi was pulled into the depths of the hallowed ground. i raced towards the wood fire while selvi and chang melted into the background.

what i found cooking was sweet pongal, a dish made with rice and moong dal with copious amounts of ghee, jaggery, milk, nuts and raisins thrown in to bring out its heady sweetness. it was inviting, yes. was i invited to taste the morsel? no. the guardian of the treasure was an able-bodied 'Kannadian'  Cerberus. and i was obviously no match for her. also, going by the impiety demonstrated so far, i had little hope of being invited for the repast. SO, off came the slippers, on came the hood, joined were the hands, bowed was the back. except that all the actions were misdirected to the wok of human weakness, the prasadam.

amidst all this selvi appeared and dragged me towards the deities in waiting, with an encouraging, "goo, goo, mamma," from the midget in tow. their 'darshan' was over and it was my turn to seek blessings. the first god looked like a cross between sri ramakrishna, shiva and a placid looking nagarjuna. he sat atop something i couldn't make out and did not look too happy with the world around him. the second was a lying kali. her body lay flat on the ground with her head raised above the body, ready to give blessings to all. the god is called sri muneshwara and the goddess is bhadrakali, apparently a very powerful avatar of the dark goddess. the priest was busy dusting the deities and performing the evening rituals. so although i sent frantic signals in telepathic morse code urging him to serve me the pongal, i was perfunctorily dismissed with the customary red tilak, a horizontal line of sandalwood and some foul tasting leaves. no prasadam.

this story, like every other, also ends with gomti, my maid, philosopher and guide. back home, she shared the 'sweet pongal' recipe with me ("not confused be the kara or unsweet pongal madam"), promised to make me some ("tomaro i make you madam. not worry.") and warned me not to go visiting temples of sri muneshwara, "the verry angry, nan-veg god". did i miss the 'nan-veg' chunks in the prasadam? blimey!

Monday, January 18, 2010

So will I

take the plunge?


the only baul album i have heard is "real sugar", paban das with sam miller. and watched paban das perform with the state of bengal in tolly club, calcutta many years back. so when a friend asked me to watch this video of gaur khepa, i was not really 'keen' keen. and then i watched it. and then i loved it. and then i shared it with you.

please watch the entire video. once the pretty song gets over, begins the fun bit. tee hee.

PS i borrowed mimlu sen's 'baulsphere' from the said friend and am reading it now.

Slip sliding away

well, literally so.

i once prided myself for being sure-footed. during those treks in the nepal himalayas (which seem like past-life experiences to me now) i was the mountain goat that sprinted down the slopes singing "There she goes again". when everyone succumbed to tibetan foot baths to heal their aching ankles and knees, i was tucking in another rosti. and the rickshaw queens of the world looked at me bounding down the muddy slopes of 'rupsechhara' in amazement.

and so when we decided to stay in a duplex, the perils of a staircase running down the house were unknown to me. till today. today the ibex became an iberian midwife toad (i chose this animal only because it begins with 'i' and sounds lumpish) when she fell down three steps and landed maladroitly on the fourth. she was only trying to follow into her husband's footsteps quite literally. the little entourage led by O with chang on his lap froze in horror and i must have screamed. i have no memory of it, but i must have. because the next minute i found myself surrounded by chhobi mashi with her grease-dripping-khunti ( a flat triangular dipper), gomti with her jhadu (the broom) and selvi with her round kohl-lined eyes devouring the rest of her face. goddesses all, with their weapons, to chastise the evil staircase.

i did what i do best. cried and yelped for all of two minutes followed by a brave and loud, "ha, no broken bones" followed by a hysterical laugh. meanwhile O took the opportunity to teach chang a lesson on 'being careful while negotiating the stairs, otherwise he would be "boom" like mamma'.

thereafter, O left for his office, the house settled back to its regular morning chores, chang made sure every time he raced to his mamma, he would slam right into the epicentre of the bruise and gomti's advice for the day was, "please madam, to see your face on mirror every morning. that way, good day, yours, bad day, also yours." go figure.

P S yours truly is currently nursing a bruised left thigh and finding succour in some generous portions of unadulterated milkmaid.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Annular Solar Eclipse

i was feeding chang the last bits of his shukto when deepa (the nanny transformed into the housekeeper) came running in to tell selvi (the nanny who was still a nanny) that she better remove the clothes from the balconies as it was about to rain. i did feel a sudden dip in temperature and the sky did look overcast. all of us fell to the task at hand aided by the little terrorist in tow.
that is when i realised the sky wasn't overcast at all. there was sunlight reflected on the walls of paramjeet's spectacular house opposite ours. but the colour was a strange orange. the sunlight had lost its rich hue and strength like the old colonel who stayed next door. it was eclipse time!
what followed was a kid's lesson on eclipse, which selvi understood better than chang. well, i tried you know, and they say it is all being absorbed by the 1 1/2 year old sponge and will come out of the dormant volcano some day.
the clothes were left alone and i tried getting the best view of the hidden sun from all our balconies after dumping chang in selvi's able hands. of course, i couldn't see it anywhere. so armed with orko's abandoned spectacles (will you believe me if i tell you i do not own a pair of sunglasses?) i rushed upstairs to mrs kapoor, our landlady's landing.
the sun was shining brightly between the leaves of the gulmohar and there was not a dot of black anywhere on it. disappointing eh? wish i was in kanyakumari. BUT, but, the birds and squirrels were unnaturally quiet. the chill prevailed and so did the orange light. and gomti (my maid, philosopher and guide) left the house instructing me to douse chang with water mixed with turmeric once the evil eclipse had left our sight.

The problem of not entrying a blog for two years is

you don't know where to begin. there's so much news from the past that has been hoarded like leftovers in your refrigerator. and if you begin with the beef stew, the shortcrust pastry will complain. anyway, i think to simplify matters, i will begin in medias res like the good old epics just so the pedants who follow my blog (some day, one day) will give it their nods.

so anyway, as i was saying, one morning i found myself sitting in the balcony of my new bangalore home in defence colony and mentally ticking the reasons which justify our relocation.

this is in random order, hence the #s are not numbered.

# a nice neighbourhood. of course, it helps that the neighbourhood has plenty of white houses with red tiles, manicured lawns and gorgeous gardens. so what if i can't see the faces that live inside those pretty houses yet.

# lots and lots of trees or as chang would say, "beeeg trees". and that is my next project, to find out the names of the trees around the house. ok let me see now, there are two coconut trees that are easy to identify, there's a jackfruit tree (and i know this only because you cannot ignore those lumpilicious fruits hanging out of every possible fork in the tree), a mango tree (ok i know this one when i see it), a banana tree (those leaves give it away and remind me of all the weddings in my family) and a beautiful rain tree which nests fetching "birdies' and "quirrels". i apologise for breaking into chang's lingo every now and then.

# the proximity of a veggie market, a fruit basket, a fish market, a delicatessen, plenty of bistros and restaurants and a few all-purpose-grocery stores besides the cornwallas, phuchkawallas, chaatwallas, and other streetfoodwallas that strew the bylanes. i can walk to all these places without giving my bad right heel any trouble and pram chang around when he has the time to get out of the "gur-dden".

# parks and "gurr-ddens". so yes, there is a park for 1-5 year olds just a skip away from the house which has become chang's regular haunt. methinks the park misses chang more than he misses it and sends telepathic signals to him during his afternoon nap. no wonder he wakes up crying, "GUR-DDEN!!" there is also this other park for 1-12 year olds which is nice for a change. i walk around its pebbled path clockwise, 2 rounds, while chang gathers leaves and plays in the mud.

# a tai-chi academy (stop your disclaimers all you cynics!), plenty of yoga and meditation centres, a homoeopathy clinic and a women's place called mother tree. more on this one later.

# a mini calcutta. this is no cr park, but it has some enterprising bengalis who are working hard towards converting the tamil and kannadiga palate to bengali food. there are roll shops and sweet mishti shops and a restaurant that has happily tied up with calcutta's bijoli grill. then there are the regular bengali food chains like 6 ballygunge place and oh calcutta. AND there is this one phuchka guy near mk retail on cmh road who makes authentic calcutta phuchkas, victoria chaats and jhalmuris. all this, just a walk and a pram mile away.

# balconies without grills. yes, we have balconies, 4 of them, and not one of them has grills. yes, it is dangerous for curious toddlers, but what the heck, we grew up in houses with balconies without grills! one needs to be cautious, keep an eye on the toddler when he's anywhere close to a balcony and teach by repetition how to safely use it. i think i'm so in love with these balconies that i'll dedicate one entire post to them.

# living on two floors. not that i am impressed by banisters and stairwells that rise like a  grand zamindar from both sides of your hall. BUT stairs that promise a study upstairs and allow me to say , "let me run downstairs to switch off the gas or the crockpot will burn" bring a smile on my face.

# opportunities for interesting alternative professions. no, i am not going to live my childhood dream of becoming a snake charmer or a fire eater. come to think of it, i haven't seen a circus anywhere close to our house. but yes, there are a variety of institutions close at hand that explore alternate methodologies of teaching/healing. there's a meditation centre that uses drama therapy and a kids' activity centre just waiting for my speech and drama classes for young 'uns. hell! if i am good at it, i can even usurp the post of my tai chi instructress. up a chocolate spa or an embryo room (more about this later) or tea house in a tree house. :-)

# opportunities for learning. i have already mentioned mother tree and the yoga and tai chi centres. did i tell you about these classes that teach you to communicate with animals, held twice a week at a convenient location about 6 roads before ours? heh.

# great coffee. powdered, granular, seeded, aromatic, frothy, watery. i likey!

# loads of carnatic music - to collect, to listen to at concerts, to learn (veena, vridangam or vocals?). and maybe, just maybe, nurture a mini mandolin srinivas in chang.

# own a reva. i know it's ugly and looks like a golf cart, but it's just my size!

# learning a new city. the roads, the lanes, the landmarks, the eateries, the post offices, the governor's house, the museums, the theatres, the aquariums. and the new weekend getaways.

 # because change is always good.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


this blog was supposed to be a handbook/manual/memoir of a mother through the early years of her motherhood, but this mother here was so overwhelmed by the experience that she forgot to add her two bits to the universe for nearly two years. so apologies, all.

but the keyboard being more persuasive than her mother, she found herself at the old site again one afternoon, after a really motivating chat with her 1 1/2 year old cub.

PS why am i writing in the third person?