Friday, August 18, 2017

Few memories from the railway tracks

Yesterday  I was getting back home after work on a local train. I was standing next to the door and for a second, leaned against it and closed my tired  eyes. I became conscious of the rhythmic noise of the train wheels moving on the tracks. Nostalgia and memories aplenty filled my mind and it was kind of soothing and familiar. Like a home turf!

Every trip to my grandparents place in Chennai would be on the Mangalore Mail from Kozikode. We would start at around 5 in the evening and reach at around 6 next morning.

Air pillows and blankets were common things most of us carried apart from chapathis or idly neatly wrapped in newspaper parcels. For a kid of 7 or 8 being able to fully inflate an air pillow and securing it properly was a huge milestone. So was removing the plug , deflating it and rolling it properly. In a time when there were no mobile phones, one had no choice but to engage in some discussions with the co-passengers. It was common to see two neighboring cabins getting engrossed in a vehement debate about some topic of interest to all.

When it was time to sleep, someone would politely ask if we can hoist the middle berth. I was fascinated by the way we used to attach them using those iron chains. Of course there would be exchanges of the seats for those unable to climb that ladder. Again being tall and strong enough to put up the middle berth was an achievement in itself.

Once we were supposed to catch a train at Salem junction. We both i.e. my brother and I were small kids. It was raining heavily and there was a kind of chill in the air. The station tea stall was open and they served ice cream. For us kids no matter what the time or the weather ice cream was ice cream.

Our dad merrily joined our childish craze and got us chocobars , a favorite before the Cornettos came in. We may have caught a cold after that but none of us cared. At that point our worlds had only one source of joy - icecream and we fully indulged in it. We often reminisce that night and how we happily munched on our vanilla and chocolate mix while it was raining cats and dogs on that small railway station. End of the day it is little joys that matter in the long run I guess.

As a parent I often wonder and assess whether I am able to give such little joys to my own kids. I guess that just happens in ways we don't realize but our children may remember.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Short Story - That Evening at the park

 I have written a short story after quite a long time for the Notion Press Contest here at Singapore.

Please do read it and if you like it, please vote for me.

Short Story - That Evening at the park #Notionpress - https://notionpress.com/story/read/148


Saturday, July 15, 2017

Can we smell or taste in our memory?

These days, I go on a 30 minute bus journey every morning. Initially I tried making some random conversations with the people seated next to me - the weather, the traffic, politics, the dog next door that was addicted to barking - there were a whole lot of topics  in queue to quench my insatiable thirst to educate the world about my opinions and thoughts. "Quite rainy today right?" I would quip and the girl next to me would slowly turn in my direction . The earphones inconspicuously lodged behind her tresses, in her ears, would reveal themselves to me and I would make an embarrassed apology. I get bombarded with glares of "Why are you talking to me? Don't you have your own cellphone? How dare you pull me out of the virtual world?" Hence, I have decided to be content with the company of my mobile device or the characters of a book that I am reading.

Apart from spreading messages on whatsapp that have absolutely no value in improving my life or that of the receiver's I listen to music. I feel that the earphone is definitely a beautiful invention.The poetic beauty of the lyrics enveloped in the permutations of the musical notes can make me ecstatic.  That moment in my life, when I am letting myself get drenched in the notes emanating from the player into my ears is bestowed by the universe on me and belongs only to me! Nothing - work pressure, family responsibilities, the complexities of my own self can touch it.

Strangely, a song that I heard in the morning, would hibernate in my mind after I alight from the bus and suddenly start playing back sometimes in the evening or even the next day. A specific part of the piece where the voice, or the crescendo of notes, or the intensity of the lyrics had managed to strike a chord - subconsciously though, would go on a repetitive mode! This would result in me humming those lines and experiencing a minuscule slice of the pleasure I had gotten while actually listening to the song.

While brooding about this , I observed something. We have five senses - sight, taste, smell, hearing and touch! But can our memory repeat all of them? I think the lanes of memory are restricted to the senses of sight and hearing. Once can only recollect the pleasures or displeasure that we associated with these senses and the situations where we came across them, and not the actual sense itself! Oops, long sentence! Did that make sense?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
We call it mind's eye and yes. We often have memories as images and it is very easy to recollect a sight or a scene from the past. The teacher that said an interesting story, a picturesque scene from our holiday, scenes from the past that we relate to intense emotions, be it happiness or sorrow - hanging out with friends, moments with family, moments when we lost loved ones, moments when an accomplishment gently added itself to our cap of feathers , moments when we felt insulted, times when we felt embarrassed , the expressions of various people during these moments - They can come back and play like a movie in our heads. Think of a person that you are very attached to, then think of someone who derives pleasure in adding misery to your life. What came to your mind?

The same thing applies to hearing - We can recollect things people said to us and their voices would play back in our heads. I am sure that as you read this you are trying to do this in your head. Recollect something your boss, or your spouse or your friend said yesterday and yes, you can hear their voice , their words and their intonations too. Think of any song that you like and you can recollect the actual singer's voice be it male or female. Not just that but the entire set of musical and digital instruments that worked alongside in creating the song! The words that were said to admonish us would make their presence felt with absolute ease. I think they reside on the topmost layer of our memory. Words that caused us hurt would stay like a birth mark forever!

What about smell, taste and sight? I think the human brains abilities are a bit diminished with respect to reproducing these senses in our memory. Think of your favorite food. Biriyani, Icecream, Masala dosa! Whatever! Yes you can see sights of it in your mind, you may be filled with memories of when you ate it last or who makes it well. But can you actually feel the taste in your head? Yes your mouth might water but its at the memory or want of the pleasure. Not at actually experiencing it. If we could, how easy would it be to follow healthy diets right? We can keep eating salads and be satisfied with memories of tasting fries and burgers!

The same thing applies to smell too. Can we actually smell something in our memory?Go ahead, try smelling roses or sandalwood. Again we would be filled with memories related to it. For instance my memory rushes to Guruvayur temple and the priests there vigorously rubbing small blocks of sandalwood against rocks to make the paste given as prasadham. The sights and the sounds from the scene come back,but the smell? I would have to wait for my next visit to Guruvayur for that.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

#atozchallenge 2017 w for where

Where?  M said W for where.

God,its all the effect of being taught phonics. When i was a kid w was only for watch and it remained so for quite a long time.

Well, where are we going?  As a species where is mankind heading... One side we have brains that are developing and inventing never imagined things.... I remember visiting my grandparents in Chennai during the holidays.There were very few houses in the neighborhood that had a telephone and my grandparents one was not one of them.When my dad who used to stay back in our residential town had to call us, he would call one of the neighbors, and my mother and we kids go their house and wait for my father's  second call which would follow. Of course not much could be discussed from a neighbors home.Switch back to the present and in one second we are communicating with so many people on Facebook,whatsapp etc. What a leap!

But have we learnt to live on this planet in peaceful coexistence?  How many problems are there that we have created? Most of us do not have the time to think about others leave alone the planet.  Where are we heading? 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

#AtoZChallenge 2017 V for Vase (Fiction)

Shruthi's eyes were a unique brown - honey, but a kind of beautiful honey. Now they were weary and staring at some distant world beyond the cold white walls of the hospital.Suddenly, as if jerked out from there, they slowly moved towards the frail figure of her mother, who had finally given in to exhaustion and had dozed off in her chair.  Life had been like any other fifteen year old's, till a week back. A severe headache had suddenly assaulted her during basketball practice and she swooned. Who knew that, what she thought were headaches due to being in the sun would need a complicated brain surgery? It was scheduled at 9 am the next day.

Her eyes now moved to the white glass table in the corner of the room. The peacock shaped blue vase held some yellow flowers. She hated yellow - had always had. Now they seemed to foretell something sad and unfortunate. She was a child, yet old enough to understand the complications of what was going to happen. The table on the left was covered with bouquets and cards - Friends, classmates, relatives had been visiting her regularly wishing her and trying to get her spirits up. She was surrounded by love.Yet they haunted her - those yellow flowers. They gripped on to her psyche as if they had invisible tentacles. They seemed to scream at her "You are doomed. You are gone. " and laugh in ruthless,cruel mirth. A nurse came in and administered her a sedative and she slowly drifted off to sleep.

The next thing she knew was being gently woken up by the chief nurse. It was around 6 30 in the morning. After exchanging a few pleasantries, the nurse explained the procedures that they would follow before wheeling her to the OT. "I will come back in a few minutes" she said with a smile and departed. The white of her uniform moved away from Shruthi's vision giving way to the vase at the back. Shruthi's pulse quickened with excitement. She felt a sweet surprise and a kind of beautiful calmness. The yellow flowers were gone. The peacock vase now had roses...roses in different shades of red and pink...They were beautiful and bright. She felt good. She felt alive.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

#AtoZChallenge 2017 U for Umbrella

The word umbrella reminds me of the book Granny Grandy's umbrella. Its a kids book and so none of you would have heard of it  suppose. But  I have read it to my son nearly a hundred times. Granny Grandy uses her umbrella when it rains, in the sun, in a dance, to stop a taxi and even to catch a thief. I read it to my little girl as well before she decided one day to make a 100 piece jigsaw puzzle out of it.

In Singapore we have rains throughout the year. Umbrellas are hence an inseparable part of our lives.
Yet the skies would feel very weepy whenever I forget to take an umbrella with me and have no nearby shelter.If  I did remember to take one, the poor spokes of my umbrella would prove themselves powerless in front of the winds that would have  seen me and decided to assume their strongest form.

Umbrellas of different types and shapes are used across India in various temples as part of the temple processions.

Image Credit:nevil zaveri on flickr Creative Commons

Image Credit:shankar s on flickr Creative Commons

I have seen pictures of Japanese umbrellas. I think a Japanese costume would be incomplete without it. Kimono clad ladies holding colorful umbrellas look so graceful and elegant.I just read on the internet that the Japanese umbrellas are called the 'Wagasa' and made using paper!Can you believe it? Found this information at http://japan-magazine.jnto.go.jp/en/1404_umbrella.html

Umbrellas form great props when used in a dance.  Needless to say Indian film industry has used it in so many of its songs.  The movie Shree 420 starring Nargis and Raj Kapoor was released in 1955 and it is one of my all time favorites.



In fact leave the romance, the tune and the lyrics. This song has so much rain that every time I see it, I start craving for some deep fried pakoda.(an Indian deep fried snack)

Monday, April 24, 2017

#AtoZChallenge 2017 T for tortoise

The story of the hare and the tortoise and how it is important to be slow and steady to win the race is very popular all over the world. Atleast in places where there are hares and tortoises. I have heard different versions of the tale. A recent one I saw on TV was, the hare does not sleep but a final swimming component is added to the race. The hare speeds all the way till that segment and then he is at a loss. The tortoise catches up in a painstakingly slow manner and then swimming is a piece of cake for him. 
Image Credit:Keth Roper on Flickr Creative Commons


Another tortoise I know of is the mosquito coil brand. In fact like xerox, people did not know that 'Tortoise' was just the name of the brand and not the name of the product. 

Did you know that giant tortoises can live upto a 100 years?

Whats the difference between a turtle and a tortoise?

My son enlightened me as follows - Turtles live on land and may come to land only to lay eggs. Tortoises live on land and may or may not swim. A turtle is an omnvore, has webbed feet and a much shorter life span whereas the tortoise is a herbivore and lives a lot longer.

I Some species of turtles are endangered. There is a voluntary group in Chennai - Students Sea  Turtle Conservation Network [SSTCN] that does some work towards conservation of Olive Ridley turtles.As mentioned in their website https://sstcn.org/

"During this season we walk the beaches every night looking for their eggs which we collect and relocate to a safe place. When the turtle hatchlings emerge 45 days later, we release them safely into the sea. On Friday nights and Saturday nights we conduct a walk for interested people. We use this opportunity to interact with them, and create awareness about the plight of an endangered species and the state of the environment. "