Eternity

Clad in saffron she stood
At the pier and it was dusk

Not timid or coy. Wide-eyed,

enigmatic, lion-hearted
The water was still, the land was rest

There were no clouds to stare at

For those who love their peace 

It was the best place to be
As solitude turned to loneliness

She half-hoped for it to happen

Her mind was fighting a fierce battle 

So different from the sea
And then he came from far

He knew that’s where she’ll be

He loved the way the sunlight gleamed

Through her hair and orange drape
He was dressed from head to toe

Of his destiny

She peeled her eyes away, for

that’s the enemy 
There was a longing

A certain awkwardness

Neither uttered a word 

There was none needed
His forehead touched hers 

And they felt it burn in pain

The wind whistled a faint song

A lone bird chirped in its nest
This moment would end 

The sorrow shall pass

She said to herself

But somewhere in her faintest thoughts

She wanted it for eternity
Eyes still shut she reached out

Her hand to touch his jaw

The wind played a wicked joke

With a chill that made her numb
Still no tears in those vivid eyes

Still no remorse inside

She opened to see that it was dark and misty

Just like in her soul inside

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Depression and its social stigma

RobinWilliams_Depression.jpgIt is not often that we hear a friend or a kin say that they are off to see a psychiatrist or a therapist for a treatment. In the world we see mental health is seen as something that is ought to be safeguarded at all times and no amount of suffering is to break it and make it so bad as to send one to therapy.

Depression is a very common illness (affects one in six people) that can affect a person irrespective of social stature, wealth, gender or age. Yet it is seen as the most shocking and serious problem that can happen. Something as small as a break-up to something really bad as a catastrophic injury or loss of loved one can cause depression. Anything like childbirth, financial problem, chronic diseases, loss etc could cause depression. It is not a mood swing or sulk that can be brushed off by asking the person to cheer up. In some cases suicidal notions are triggered and if not treated correctly could burgeon into the worst.

Postpartum depression happens as endorphins given out by foetus throughout pregnancy is suddenly stopped just after childbirth causing a sudden down low in the mood. Yet, at hospitals when a new mom complains that she is not feeling happy to see the baby and hold him, it is seen as an abomination and not something that might be worthy of being helped.

Although depression and bipolar disorder is something of adults, there are numerous children who suffer from Autism, Asperger’s syndrome, dyslexia and more due to genetic defects. It is only in recent years that people are transitioning from complete denial to accepting that conditions like these do exist and require treatment.

In India, a closely knit social and family circle is sure to keep tab on general well being of a person from time to time. This is good, as when the blues sink in, we have a friend or family to lean on to and gain strength until dark times are over. In cases more often than not, this scenario only works against us, as the person feeling down(beyond the help offered by family) is often restricted to seeking professional help as it is often considered an act done by those who have lost their marbles. In most cases spiritual inclination is suggested, but this would work only in cases where the faith is paramount and can be used as a stepping stone to get over the fight.

A less wealthy man would think that all we need is money to remain happy in life, but a celebrity would say that the constant attention, pressure to look good, stress to deliver, financial ups and downs, loveless lives and fame is enough to shatter the fragile state of mind resulting in substance abuse and suicides. The best and most talented are almost always found ending their lives due to this dark cloud called depression. Great talents like Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Heath Ledger, Kurt Cobain, Whitney Houston, Elvis Presley, Coco Chanel and the most beloved comedian Robin Williams have all been victims of depression and died due to drug abuse/suicide.

Depression and the like are not diseases, but more of a state of mind that can be controlled and contained if the right pathway is laid out.
Let us be more proactive and less judgemental towards them. Cheers!

Myriad colours of a TamBrahm wedding

Weddings are one of the most colourful occassions I’ve ever come across. Numerous personalities make up for an exciting 2 day affair. Who are you among these? 

Image

Pic courtesy Lavanya via PencilJammers.com

The Fashionista :

She is debonair, she is in vogue. She wears Haute Couture and oh-so-bolly replicas that make guys drool and girls swoon. Her well fitted blouse urges us to slap our tailors for incompetence and makes the maamis exclaim with raised eyebrows. She is the favorite at her local beauty parlour for the numerous fixes and fumbles experimented on her. Her hair cut can feed a family of 4 for a day. She talks elegantly on her latest smartphone and eats the wedding feast frugally and carefully not to mess with her expensive lip wear. She is a sure show stopper.

The Gastronome :

He is easily put off when there is a drop less of decoction in his hot filter coffee or when thayir pachiddi is not served in the top right corner of his banana leaf. He can be spotted rubbing his swarming tummy as soon as the ceremony is over and is sure to take his time to savor and enjoy the numerous delicacies at the wedding feast. Burrrrrrrppppp!

The Gupshup Churner :

There is always a certain someone at every wedding who draws out the juiciest, funniest and most ridiculous gossip about almost everyone. A know it all whom the bride and groom secretly hate and who is the starter of every conversation. Who is the bride’s late uncle’s wife’s cousin’s second daughter who married a foreigner? Well…. She would know! Shhhhhhh!

The Drama Queen :

She is the most emotional of the lot and is the one who cries profusely (sometimes more than the bride’s mom) when the bride is ready to bid farewell. She can be found gushing about how wonderful everything at the wedding is and why it is so sad that the 3rd cousin, who is forever settled in Florida, is missing it.

The Gadget Guru :

Always rooted into a small screen, he is the go-to-person to understand what is the best feature in a Samsung Galaxy S5 that has been missed out in the latest Apple iPhone. Pretentiously captures wedding events in a huge tablet and videoconferences them to a bunch of sleepy-eyed overseas folks still in their pyjamas, who wave furiously at us when we suddenly come in the range of the camera left with nothing else to do but shout ‘Hiiiiiii’ in unison. Live webcasting….? Hello???!!!

The Kutchery Hopper :

He has an ear for music. His favorite part of the day is when the microphone is tested for the evening reception. He chooses the best seat and sits comfortably to listen to good carnatic music oblivious to the people surrounding him or the hoopla happening on stage. He makes the young singer seriously nervous by outstretching his arms in air and dishing out an unsynchronized thalam for the ongoing song. 

Mr Worried :

Carries a glum expression all through. All proceedings and financial settlement need to go through him. Last minute changes in menu, last minute change in plans, last minute dropouts from reception function all add to his anxiety. This is usually the father of the bride. He cannot bear the fact that his little girl is leaving the nest, the burden of seating her on his lap for kannikadhanam notwithstanding. 😉

Pic courtesy Lavanya via PencilJammers.com

The Darlings :

Okay, there are a couple of people at a wedding ceremony whose sole aim is to ensure the proceedings go according to plan and that the bride and groom are most comfortable, given their most stressed out condition is now! They are there to pull out the bangles off the bride’s hands when is ready for a change. They are there to instruct the caterer maama on the beverage the groom needs at 5 in the morning. They are there to handle any last minute crisis without sending shock waves to the parents and the couple. The helpful friends and cousins are the darlings at every wedding.

Soulful, Colourful

It was a warm day at college. As some of us longingly stared into oblivion while a lecturer furiously dished out hash tags and curly braces of a C++ program, on the blackboard, with a screechy piece of chalk, there was a quite discussion, or should I say “scheming”, going on at the last bench.

We could make out words like  “canteen”, “bomb”, “hit”, “dead” and then it struck me what the discussion is about. My eyes widened in horror as realization dawned. I could only pray to the heavens that my name is not involved in this evil scheme. As hearts thumped and lecturer bellowed out today’s assignment, I heard my name being mentioned by few girls seated on the last bench.  On turning to acknowledge hearing my name, I was  greeted with sugar sweet innocent-baby smiles.

The bell tolled and it was time for recess. As the daily custom goes, myself and a few friends walked out of class, stood on the hallway balcony staring into plush green lawns being watered by sprinklers, munching on a calorific snack, chatting about a latest flick. As time came, we turned to walk back to class we were hit by a flash of red. It covered our face and neck, burned our eyes and gave a bad taste in the mouth. The day was holi and the war thus started.

Image courtesy Google

The whole class was in a frenzy attacking each other with what ever closest colorful thing they could get hold of. Be it orange juice, poster colors and color-powder, everyone was covered in every unpleasant thing possible.

R the head of backbenchers, ensured every person in the roll call was smacked with a handful of color-powder, shooting instructions and sketching methods to ambush people with her own little gang.

As I rushed to water down the powder from my eyes, I decided to give the “schemers” a taste of their own medicine. I started a conspiracy gang, one obviously involving those already covered in bright red color-powder. We decided to walk to the nearby convenience store to buy a plethora of ammo to ambush the enemy and make them surrender to our mercy. Muhuhahahahaaa !

Ouch! that’s when we lost the second battle in the war. For a second time we were attacked, only this time it wasn’t the burning-eye sensation. It was a nauseating smell and a cold dab on the head that we felt. Washing off the slimy dribbles and picking the egg shells out of our hair we walked determined, not to the store but to our canteen to get hold of eggs declared rotten and not used to make(thankfully) canteen food. A foolproof plan was laid out and the enemy leader was drawn into the open.

The conspiring gang of about 6 to 7 people surrounded her. I took charge, approached her swiftly and placed two well placed blows on the head with three most badly rotten eggs we had. At that very second, jubilant that karma has been served, I smiled and my gang cheered.

Within a split second, their expressions changed from happiness to one of extreme anxiety, I turn to my right to place the source of trouble and there stood a security guard with a long stick firmly in right hand, nose flaring and eyes pinned on me. I turn back and within a split second, a place which was occupied by 8 other people standing in a circle stood grave empty with just a stench as an evidence.

That was my first encounter with my Principal 😦

P.S : All characters in the above story are fictitious. Or are they?!

Krishna Jayanthi

Little Krishna is born and all the maamis come out their houses with small tubs of ground rice to lay out kolams and krishnar kaal(footprints). What a cute way to think that the Lord comes out his holy abode, places his tiny feet on the carefully drawn footprints, through the house, into the pooja room to taste all the yummy stuff prepared and displayed for him.

Lord Rama being the modest person that he is wants only watery buttermilk and an extremely sweet jaggery soup as prasadam for Rama Navami. But Krishna being a demanding little baby boy wants seedai, nei appam, adirsam, payasam, murukku and other yummy prasadams for birthday.

When young I used to think of prasadams (offerings to God) to be a cruel practice to test one’s self control. It may look inviting, smell amazing and may cause you to salivate like a German Shepherd. But, come what may, even a lone finger used to touch or turn a ghee sweet prasadam needs to be washed in running water and cannot be inadvertently licked while no one is watching (Or so you may want to think while the oldies keep an hawk’s eye on you) lest you be ‘abishtu’ed.

You get a little ambitious and try to dress your little one as Lord Krishna or his aide Radha and what ensues next is chaos. I am not ready to believe that Krishna being naughty fellow that he is actually stayed still while someone adorned him with slippery silk clothes, heavy and poking jewellery complete with an uncomfortable peacock feathered crown and chandan on forehead. He looks absolutely adorable and well grommed in all his pictures, fresh butter smeared across his face notwithstanding. Trying to get it done for one day in a year was a workout in itself.

No! No one is complaining. The results were enchanting enough to make me do this thousand times over and thousand more. Enjoying the ghee laden prasadams alongside watching a little one be so fascinated with her flute made up for an otherwise wet, dull and unable-to-step-out evening. It was so worth it! I guess that’s how Krishna looked dapper in all his pictures.

Moral : Behind every successful festival , every yummy prasadam and every cutely dressed kid is a super tired but immensely happy lady 🙂

The Lady I Cherish!

On a cloudy morning, as I yawned wide and opened my refrigerator, contemplating what to whip out for lunch, I noticed I had a lot of curd (not yoghurt, mind you) in various degrees of sourness and I didn’t have the heart to throw it out. Our dear TamBrahm ancestors have modeled just the right solution, or should I say recipe, for a curd dilemma like this one. It is called more-kozhambu or curd stew. Although being a Palakad Iyer, my hubby does not like more-kootaan (as he calls it, hee hee) which is a staple for them, so I don’t usually cook it. But today was an exception.

As I meticulously followed the instructions given by Meenakshi Ammal (Oh please don’t ask me who she is. If you are a Tambramh girl, your mom would definitely  give you a book written by Meenakshi Ammal as a seedanam. Yeah, a cook book and holy bible for people like me. Ahem!) I collected all ingredients and soaked this, ground that, grated this, stirred that and got so lost in thought. I remembered the kind of more-kozhambu my paati used to make. The kind that had the right amount of sour, spicy and salty taste to it.

 

She was a legend at cooking. No fancy appliances, no helping hand, no hi-fi modular kitchens and definitely no measurements. With just a bunch of hungry grandchildren around, she could whip out some exquisite culinary dreams. And all this was done in a dimly lit, ammi and aatu-kal equipped old building’s kitchenette. When she graduated herself to a mixer and exclaimed sweetly “Idhula fast-ah aayidardu”. With one of the younger cousins constantly summoned to fetch an odd ingredient from nearest grocery store, she made sure everyone in the house was with a full tummy. I can still remember smelling the freshness of the superb vatha-kozhambu and crunchy cheppa-kezhangu she makes.

Yeah she was of old generation, typical with echhal, pathu, madi, aacharam(but not so much teettu, thankfully) following; Reciting daily slokas not before laying out the perfectly dimensioned maa-kolam; Doing her weekly Friday lakshmi poojai after an oil bath complete with wet towel on her head and everything. But she was a loving paati and I owe my happy childhood to her. I learnt most of my slokams, kolams and Ramayanam from her.  Not to mention the carnatic songs rendition we used to share just before dozing off to our afternoon nap.

It really amazes me on thinking back about the energy level she had. With a bunch of grandchildren driving her nuts, running amuck energetically and doing mischief passionately, she had a million chores to do. But ever so cheerfully, ever so patiently and so tactfully she handled everything one by one. Being affable and conversant, she was the social glue that bound most of her relatives together. Without her, it felt as if the whole world around us would just fall apart into a million bits. And it happened one day, she left us peacefully and gracefully, like how she does everything. She resides immortally in my heart smiling happily, like how I remember her. Thanks for everything paati.

My more-kozhambu is done, simmering and smells so beautiful now.

How do I choose the right toy for my kid?

This is probably the question that pops into your head every once awhile if you are a parent. It is very natural for babies and kids to get bored of toys and go looking for new things to play with. Their rapidly developing mind and quick grasping power is constantly seeking something to explore. Given that the retail market is spoiling us for choices to buy, how do you zero in on the right brand and right type of toy?

While choosing the brand I keep in mind the number of years the manufacturer has put into the industry, safety standards they undertake (which will ensure that there are no small parts present in the toys which might accidentally choke kids, no easily open able battery compartments etc) and most importantly the use of non-toxic materials to manufacture toys (meaning there will be no lead and other harmful chemicals like BPA used in the toys which my teething baby will be chewing on). Yes, there are many locally made and some imported toys which are ubiquitous and economical and look just as similar; but do remember that you are compromising quality and safety while compromising on the price. My personal choice of brands are fisher-price, chicco and funskool. You can find them in all big retail outlets and online shops. These brands offer many choices and are also preferred by many of my friends who are parents.

To choose the right type of toy you need to consider your baby’s age and behaviour to determine his/her likes. I have some pointers which you may find useful.

1. Most infants and small kids love toys which squeak, are colorful, make music and have fancy lights on them. Of course their all time favorite toys will be fluffy teddies, soft toys and crib toys who are all companions during sleep time. A word of caution while buying battery operated ones; ensure the battery compartment is securely sealed and fastened with a screw as you really do not want the horror of suddenly noticing your naughty little one brandishing a battery wondering if it is a new snack.

2. As an infant my little princess loved napping and playing on her rocker. I found it oh so useful as I didn’t have to walk over to her crib to check on her every now and then. I could have her right next to me while reading a favorite book or catching my daily soap on television. I also bought her a play gym which kept her busy for an hour or two and gave me some me-time to relax and also complete my chores.

3. My little bundle is teething now (upper lateral incisors) and so is chewing on everything in sight. Which also explains the numerous bright red spots on my arms. Invest in a good teether to ease teething pain. You may like to consider the teething stage the baby is in to buy accordingly. For a baby without any teeth in place, go for water filled teether which are feel good factor for the gums; if there are some teeth with new teeth sprouting out, go for hard teether so that it does not get punctured due to constant gnawing.

4. A friend of mine has a 3 year old who is taken swimming, to beat the heat, every alternate days. There was this really cool safety float she got him. As a result he totally enjoys swimming and as an added benefit is famished at the end of it, gobbles a good dinner and sleeps soon after.

5. Let me not start on the crazy fascination little girls have towards their barbie dolls and dollhouses. I used to have a dollhouse  too when I was a kid. Yes, we girls love to fantasize. There I said it! So I gifted a little niece of mine a barbie bedroom set for her 5th birthday and earned the most coveted ‘favorite aunt’ title.

With a little experimentation, love and thought you will be able to select the perfect toy your kid enjoys. So go on and buy stuff, watch them play and videotape it. You will treasure it forever.