Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Paandan Naaya

A malayalam poetry gem by the great poet Kunjan Nambiar,

Paandan naayude pallinu shauryam
Pandeppole phalikkunnilla
Pandivanoru kadiyaloru puliye
Kandichathu njaan kandariyunnen

Sing it out loud for maximum effect!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Life in a small town - 1

That is one mean junction in my town - it really is!

It is one where you can go from one road to any other road. Rather, the 1st is sparsely used, and the 2nd and 3rd feed the 4th - a one way. There are no traffic signals and usually a traffic policeman tries to manage the manic traffic that jostles towards the 4th road. Now it not so much the cross-traffic that is the issue there, but the fact that you have all kinds of vehicles, from buses to bi-cycles trying to push through that small neck of the road. Add to that a few well placed potholes, of various shapes and sizes, obviously, and you get the picture. It is one of those places where if you are on a two-wheeler you feel as if you are stalked by one of those huge primeval predators, except that here the hunters come in the shape of cuboids, run on wheels, and creep up behind you before letting out a loud blare, invariably throwing you off balance directly into the path of the metallic beast.

"So what?", you may ask. You pick any town in India, small or large, and you will find atleast one junction worthy of the curse. Yeah, I agree, but my point is not that the this junction is one of a kind, but to simply paint a picture of the place where the incident took place that humid September afternoon (This is no murder mystery mind you. So don't get all worked up when I mention that 'incident'. Relax, continue sipping that bottle of coke you just kept aside, and let the music play).

Anyway, there I was in my car trying to squeeze through the traffic when I saw this old man trying to cross the road - right at that junction!

In the middle of the commotion there were these two cops trying hard to control the traffic. One of them, the sub-ordinate, suddenly saw the subject and started shouting at him. I couldn't quite make out what he was trying to say as the window was rolled up, though, I could make out that he was not quite pleased with the old fella. He quickly cut through traffic to reach the old man and tried animatedly, very, (atleast that much I can vouch for) to dissuade the bloke from trying what he was about to do. During the argument he would break for a second, wave and shout at a passing vehicle, and then revert to pursue the challenge. The old man, with his cream woolen head-cap and cardigans always had one eye on the vehicles and could be seen stepping aside or jumping away as and when he found himself seconds away from peril. He just refused to listen to the cop.

After sometime, the policeman finally gave up and decided to help the fellow the cross the road. With one hand raised to try and stop the incessant traffic, and the other firmly latched on to the old man, he made his way through the mess.

By now I had reached the neck, the choking point.

As I made my way past, I turned around for a second and caught what I thought was a very enduring scene. The two had successfully made it to the other side. And the old man having got his wish, was patting the cop on his shoulder, the way a father would pat his son for a job well done. The gesture seemed to re-establish the old man's seniority over the cop in addition to thanking him. He then started moving away from the traffic. The cop, overwhelmed by the unexpected gesture from the frail old man, broke out into a wide grin and started cracking a joke with his partner.... 'A sunshine moment!'

BLARE!! Damn! These metallic monsters... Get out my way you old creep!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


I stuck out and curled my tender little pink tongue, and pressed it against the dog's. I did the same with my little nose - so that my face, was now flat against the dog's face. I started making nasal sounds, there after - at times to scare the animal, otherwise to tease it. I was shaking my head from side-to-side, looking the pug straight in its eye, when the heavy hand of my Papa gently tapped my tiny bum, urging me to stay still and make peace with the cur.

The train whistled and trundled its way through the dark night - past nonchalant trees, trying to outrun a wind that came down from the mountains afar.

My Papa, never good at planning things, had got us the two side berths in a train that had far outlived it's glory days with some last minute booking.

My Mama was sleeping on the berth above and my Papa was trying to catch some shut-eye having placed me on the not so gentle curvature of his belly.

I loved to run my hands over the outline of the dog, but I disliked the smell of Papa's sweaty t-shirt, quite unlike the fragrance of my Mama's hair that put me to sleep every night at home. I could see strands of cloth standing up from Papa's t-shirt like the smoke that came out of his cigarettes. The strands would disappear under my fingers as I traced the dog, and would reappear, curled up, as the fingers moved on.

The lights were still on, and I could see the pallu of my Mama's saree hanging over the side of her berth. Once in a while she pulled it back, but it always re-appeared and peeped back at me through the flowery-eyes of its patterns. I could see my Mama's dangling right hand and was fascinated by the vermilion dabbed nails of her fingers. But, as I strained further to get a better look at all this I was stopped by a tap from my Papa - at times he would coat it with a gentle reprimand. He would inevitably rest his hand on my back, as a final sign for me to go to sleep.

Outside, the moon stared at me from a vast lonely space.


The skin felt cold, membrane-like, stretched over what was inside. Papa had lost a lot of weight in the last few months and the belly had flattened, leaving little signs of the once prominent protrusion.

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the pallu of my Mama's saree, now a faded white,a lattice of criss-crosses, pulled up every now and then to dab her eyes. Her fingers were bony and her nails a pale white, a white that only old-age could paint.

Papa was bare-bodied, and I was on him. There were no sounds, no smells, and I knew his hand wouldn't move to hold me still.

As I looked at it, his hand, the skin long shriveled, and the bones and muscles stubborn hard, the memory of that night in the train popped out at me, like the contents at the back of an old drawer.