Friday, December 23, 2005

The Year of Breaking Free...

About this time, last year a speed post from India came visiting me in San Diego. Inside it was the application form for the Civil Services that my dad had send witout even my asking for it. He wanted me to give the exams this May by preparing for it in the US but I flatly told him I just wasnt inspired to make the effort. I guess I wasnt ready then, but most unexpectedly my destiny sure took me down that road. As 2005 slips away I am left with strong memories of a year that was undoubtedly the most eventful and possibly the best of my life. Every step of the way I trode not knowing where I was heading...when the year began I had no clear idea of my career in the long run, I continued to mingle and bond in a country I couldnt bring myself to call mine and a people I felt distant from in mindset, culture and upbringing. Last december, I looked back at 2004 and at the end made a vague but determined resolution of going in for a change of careers. I had no idea it would happen but then, but what this year taught me was the power of writing and the miracles that being honest to yourself and having the guts to play your thoughts out to the world can bring about. 2005 despite everything else...that is the little achievements, the few times I stumbled badly, happy times with my friends was all about blogging and the immense satisfaction and contentment it gave me. It taught me to be hopeful, to be patient, to believe in god...and the realization that a chance to go and follow my hearts desires would materialise.

The year started disastrously, with the desi consultant who placed me at M&H booting with my salary but fortunately the firm hired me directly for the rest of the 4 month contract. But what I would love to remember abt Jan was for a 50 movie watching spree that gave me such immense satisfaction, Feb I headed for that epic road trip from coast to coast with Bipin. In March I ended my contract, partly out of a most boring and unchallenging tasks and partly out of loneliness, at San Diego(will always remember it as among the most beautiful cities of the world) and headed for LA where my sis and many great friends waited. The job search took painfully long...ironically it was easier for me to move to Delhi from LA than from SD to LA. Realized I wasnt considered for jobs as I was thought to be an SD resident and not a local candidate(LA and SD are as far apart as TVM and Cochin!) and finally when I got the job and rejoiced, it was only to end in despair as I got fired(now I think my blogging at work had to do with it!). But in a week Universal hired and for the first time in the US I was on a roll. Challenging job, great team, good money... but that was it...I reached the end of my techie road...i reached the end of a road in the US where I came dreaming of making countless money for my future wasnt long before I realized my ambitions lay beyond making money.

I was soon approaching my 25th birthday and with that a lot of things changed within me. I couldnt continue to justify the course my life was taking...I was becoming bitter, reserved and resigned to a life in the US, the days of taking risks and following my heart seemed over. It seemed impossible I would ever get to live in Trivandrum...I was restless and nobody could relate with me. The first time I let it out was with the Seven's tag, Thats when the power of this blog on me came alive. I wrote this post on the state of our, constitution a few days later and I began wondering if I had a career worth dreaming about there. Once I cleared all those clouds of self-doubt I knew my days in America were numbered. I certainly miss a lot of America - I miss the friends I earned there and solitary drives at night in my car...but then I love the pleasures of drinking a chai on the roadside, walking side-by-side thousands of my countrymen not feeling uncomfortable of my place in society.

Finally I have hit an xmas season that bucked the trend of the last many years, 2001 had that trekking expedition and some good fun with my schoolmates, 2002 viswan came visiting me in LA, 2003 wuz even better as I visited him in Rochester and he had an unbelievable itenarary of skiing, camping, travel, two visits to Niagara and to cap the vacation,a smashing new year party at Times Square in Manhattan and last year bipin and I headed to Vikas's den in San Jose for perhaps the last time we 3 wud ever meet together. The year ahead gives me no room for resolutions...but one thing I lack is discipline and I have many weaknesses of the mind I'll fight to overcome this year. I have no idea what will happen after the mains in October assuming I make it that far...its a year that will race ahead at breakneck speed. I am already left whirring at the days zooming past me. I would be lying if i said life is easy now...there are times i wonder if this is an uphill task but there is also the curiosity of finding out where this journey will take me which spurs me on...10 years back people would have laughed if I said I would one day do well in the US or prepare for the civil services...and its also 10 years I swam with the tide never ever having the courage to take my self-belief to a higher level. I have come a long way from the introverted kid I was and I have seen many many miracles happen in my life. My parents tell me I have acquired a hero image in tvm but I know thats a mirage that could come crashing down. Well enough of my all you people...friends, family and blog pals wish you all a very merry christmas and a happy 2006.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

While The Sun Shines...

The sun is yet to fade away here...delhiites are relishing all the sun they can get before dec15 when i heard it disappears for a few months. Its nice to see young and old, men and women, lay out their cots and chairs to catch the son and i think woh...what wud americans say abt this kind of sun-bathing!! Sachin lightedned up the Kotla and Delhi with his long-awaited 35th. I grew up watching him play and having missed the last 4 years of the new brigades arrival he continues to be my favorite. Another day and time I would have walked miles to see him play but yesterday, as I overheard my roomies debating the "worthwhileness" of heading to the Kotla in the absence of Sehwag I was tempted to go watch the match...but the innate tendency to bunk classes is unfortunately not my area of specialization anymore. The Daal-Chaval-Sabji routine hasnt been helping much in my body countering the cold thats getting pronounced day by day. Thats when we discovered this Kottayam achayan running a kerala mess far from the madding crowd in a real dinghy area. The barotta and beef there is keeping me alive...and its taste...oh my god...and its a wonder how they keep the place running in the heartland of Hindutva.

Today began much better. I woke up too early to not be able to plead any excuses for missing I headed out for the only church in the vicinity at St.Stephens. Arriving in a huff, wondering if I would be making my grand entry midway or to the end of the service I found the chapel deserted and the service to be in the evening which clashes with my classes. Anyways the solitude and silence was worth the effort to make it there. After 5-10 mins of contemplating, a group of boys and gals walked in and started playing the piano and guitar. I smiled at the expectation of getting to hear some good church songs and the tune they started to play seemed vaguely familiar to some song I had heard. And then a gal broke out into the song..."Pehla Nasha, Pehla...". I stared open-mouthed in surprise at the offending "church choir" and they gave me an embarassed smile. They were the choir all right, but were practising for a college fest!!!

As is with me...there is never a shortage of mallus around me. They are a curious set really...and their outlook to life is something i have never seen till date in any of the friends i made till now. One guy is a philosopher and writes wonderful stories in malayalam and may someday become a scriptwriter in our films...I have introduced him to blogging and he was inspired by Jithu's Mal blog. Then there's another guy who is an avid Christian and he is out to reform me of what he says are heathen beleif's creeping into my Xianity. The third guy is a lookalike of Mohanlal, in looks, height, dressing, way of talking, everything. And next month yet to arrive in Delhi is Mr.Andy Padman, my classmate in Loyola and roomie at USC who gave his first attempt at the civil service this year. Gotto play some box cricket yesterday at our terrace and it wuz so felt good to bowl my off-breaks, fox the guys a few times and once they learnt my tricks, having to try new things in vain and the realization that my batting has started to deteriorate as i got yorked, beaten and caught without wasting too many balls...either the hand-eye coordination is failing or i'll need lots of practise!!

Well studies, what do I say...its a process of unlearning traditional answer-formats followed in school and college, its a realization that logic and not chronology should be the approach taken to learn history, its a cycle of 2-3 days of intense 15 hour streches in front of books and then a day of languor where I catch up on all the sleep lost and again back to the books with the perpetual feeling of racing against the neck hurts like hell these days from studying on the roomies joke i smell more of himami fast relief than anything else...i guess the spondilytis that runs in my family has come to haunt me too...thankfully i move into the single room in a few days and will have space for a table and chair!! In the end if it has to be, it will be the coaching, my legendary good luck and my writing that could give me the edge over others...its a journey I am taking a day at a time, this is the life I have dreamt of living...the freedom to chase my dreams and making it happen with my effort...I have given up on the much-hyped vacation of this December...I'll miss the guys big-time but if I can give them a cause to celebrate in 2 years then I guess it'll all be worth it.

Monday, December 05, 2005

From Vazhimutti to Meenmooti!!!

And so it came to pass that eight lazy souls who were the only surviving relics of an unbelievably eventful schoolife had an xmas vacation to spend in trivandrum. The year was 2001 and our final semester of engineering college life was winding its way to the finish line. Thomman, the most dreaded and loved loyolite ever in the annals of the school's history arrived in trivandrum from the NDA. The scars of a disastrous trip to Ponmudi, six months back had barely begun to heal. Under pouring rain seven of us had set out on 4 bikes, but Naga, G-Sec of the CET College Union, the redoubtable SFI leader of a dozen strikes in college and enfant terrible to the College Principal had his reputation in tatters as he fell of his bike thrice with the aid of the rain and a little extra beer to go with it...and the bike he loaned from ponnan looked just a shadow of its old pristine self. To add to it the bike thomman and i were on ran out of petrol and we pushed it in the rain all the way to Vithura which luckily happened to be "only" a few kilometers away. And motta escaped by the skin of his teeth when a flying squad jeep caught him and asked him to blow into the wudnt inflate and since then our confidence in KP methods hit sky high. And so Thomman, Muthu, Paili, Raman, Khaja, Motta, Naga and I set off stopping on the way to buy supplies of barotta, beef, kuppis and water.

And thus we set off to the proverbial Meenmooti aided by descriptions of the place from Muthu and me which seemed to coincide. I started having my doubts when we got off at Kallar and began the trek as my earlier visit to Meenmooti had been from the Neyyar dam. Anyways we set off and in 45 mins reached an imposing single peice of rock towering almost 200 feet into the sky at an angle of 60degs. It almost looked like a cave inside and the Kallar river flowed by its side. We wondered for a sec if this was Meenmooti...but the place I had been to with the same name needed 2 hours of trekking thru the forest and there was a waterfall and a TB nearby. Muthu was doubtful as his cousins description of the place they had been to didnt seem to match exactly. And so we walked until we reached a clearing and on two sides there was a deep gorge and a vague path leading into the deep forest. Against our wiser counsel we set off and entered the jungle cracking dialogues like jagathy's in yodha..."ee forest muzhuvanum kaadaanallo" and like. By now it was well past noon and the jungle grew thicker and thicker, the sun's rays barely made it to the ground, and after a while we srarted seeing stones assembled like milekuttis... somebody remarked that this was the tamil nadu-kerala border and we dimwits shook our head in agreement.

Soon the path disappeared and again we kept troding...thoughts of the mythical meenmooti tempting us further and further into the thick rainforest. The tree barks had become so thick even clasping two of our hands around it wasnt enough to cover the diameter, we started seeing giant spider webs with a span of a meter. And then it happened...a load of fresh anappindam!!! A shout of unison was heard among the boys...ente amme...and the next second we ran ahead at breakneck speed(i wonder now we didnt run back!!!)...but it was increasingly becoming clear to me that my meenmooti was elsewhere and we were heading for the wrong track...i made a tepid suggestion but was dismissed rudely...i looked around to build my case and found support in motta and muthu. Khaja and Naga became fencesitters while Thomman, Paili and Raman wanted to push ahead. In normal circumstances with Thomman around I would have kept my cool but I got pissed that his Armyman's bravado was coming in the way of his seeing reason. In a fit of rage I threw my bag to the ground and said I wont move an inch and we had to head back the way we came. Soon sides were taken and a war of words began(I always thought it cliched seeing fights breaking out in movies when ppl got lost but now i realised the psychology behind that!). Soon I had my way and we headed back. But we had hardly taken 50 steps when we couldnt even know which way we came. The forest lay thick and spread in all directions...whatever path was there we had left behind almost an hour ago...

Bickering broke out again on pushing forward but I stood my ground...we were all tensed and the realization of being lost in this jungle dawned...we were still game for jokes though...motta got hold of a branch and started practising tarzan tricks in anticipation of a long spell of forest life...thomman and paili decided to scout the area and there they saw a spring emerging from under a rock and a stream flowing down...paili listened carefully and he heard the sound of a river in the distance...we had followed the kallar upstream for an hour and if we could get to it all we needed was to follow it downstream to reach the rock cave we had seen earlier...for a second we marvelled at paili's genius...he was always belittled with the nickname shishu from school but today he had risen to the occasion while all we self-proclaimed streetsmarts couldnt think now we had all come to agreement that the cave was meenmooti...and immediately we ran for our lives...on the way we saw a giant giant spider the like of which i'll never see again in my lifetime...we ran at double speed now and a kilometer on we saw the anapindam again...the relief it brought to our face cannot be described but we wondered if the kattana was close by and fled for our lives again!!!

Wearily climbing up a small hillock we had the golden moment of the trip...struggling to climb using a creeper, khaja was miffed to find a lazy and tired muthu hanging on to him in the hope that khaja would lift him up and khaja came up with a repartee i have not heard in the best of malayalam films...."uriyil thoongunnavante pariyil (tvm lingo for ass) thoongunnoda"...hearing this muthu gave a cry of "ente amme" and fell back in resignation while we threw our bags to the ground and broke out in a long long laugh. Although the sun had not set and it was just 4 or 5 in the evening the forest had begun to get dark but we reached the rocky banks of the kallar and followed the river to the cave. On getting to our campspot we just jumped into the river for the refreshing bath of our life...worries about the notorious under-currents which had taken many a young engg and medical student life at kallar was the last on our minds...we just had a memorable adventure to relish for a lifetime. After the bath we returned, suddenly felt religious and muthu recited the "gayatri mantra"(in the evening!) and paili said an "Our Father in Heaven" before we got down to business. Well by business, I really dont need to explain further but the end result of all this was the comic sight of muthu camping in a lungi and all set to fly to america taking exception to our constant barbs about the standard of his english and saying stuff like "I am standing on the 30degree inclination of a small rock" to prove he wasnot fit and we were concerned at not having bought ginger and garlic to ward off snakes but naga "gamefully" beginning a vomitting spree that drew a virtual lakhsmana rekha around us and oh the smell...let me not talk about that! There was a bonfire, old memories, new ones the day had given us, talks of where the future would take us...oh what a night of fun we had. The dialogue "Anapindam Oramyondo Jabba" just like the "Thomaskutty Vittoda" dialogue in In Hariharnagar became part of our class folklore and 4 years on, this december I see the faint outlines of another disastrous vacation taking concrete shape...

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Changes Galore...

I am in a place and situation I never expected to find myself in. I never thought I would ever have to sit in front of books with the intention of reproducing them in exams after the MS torture but here i am surrounded by a fortress of books all around my bed guarding me like a sleeping beauty, never thought I would have to sit in classes though I would vouch that they are a hundred times better than sleepy afternoon office meetings, after a few years of doing laundry, dishes, cleaning(hehe) and occasional cooking its a relief to have a cook, dhobi and a maid servant doing these chores. And in last few weeks i have begun to believe that we still need a lot of socialism to keep taking all our indians forward.

I have basically a subject called General Studies(covering Modern Indian History, Economics, Social Issues, Civics, Geography, Statistics, Sci & Tech) and two optionals, History and Sociology to study and I am supposed to put in 9-10 hours of self study besides 5 hours in class, 7 days a week. Am yet to get to full speed but thankfully I love all these subjects without exception and slogging those extra hours doesnt suck really. The cold is slowly setting in, studying on the bed(combine cold + bed + studies and u get an excellent cocktail to go sleep...hehe!!!) , jolly nice roomates who illegally tap cable tv wires and bring superb english movie vcd's home are breezy temptations i am learning to avoid. Thankfully I move into a single room next week and will have space for a table and chair!!!

Talked to my loyola bud, Kicha(Krishnachandran) who is also in Delhi and I just cant wait to meet him. Ironically while I moved to India he is moving to the US next year. I am sure his genius and flair for architecture will find recongnition there. Last night got a call from another pal I havent seen for 4 long years, Thomman(Capt.Ninan Thomas)...The cliched pattaalam that he is, the dear fellow without me asking for it, in army style started pepping me up(he calls it josh!) and i ended up pumping my fists and studying till 6 in the morning today. I always thought I had the quality to motivate others with my talking but it doesnt work for myself and I sometimes dont like others trying to inspire me, but his words last night did the trick for me. He has promised to spend a few days with me in jan and eitherway Jammu is only an overnite away and man...thats something i will look forward to...bcoz guys and friends just dont get better than him.

I had reserved the xmas holidays for 7 days of the most meticulously planned vacation of my life. 3 days with my parents and sis - including a much awaited celebrating of my uncle's 25th year of priesthood, my first christmas at home in 4 years, 2 days with school buddies - plans were on for a trekking expedition to meenmooti on its 4th anniversary(wait for the post on that guys, just wait for that...i promise to make u guys laugh a lot with that!) and the customary gettogether back in school where we play football, basketball and cricket and at the end of the day just sit back on the quadrangle steps and relive every moment of our schooldays before leaving for dinner at kalavara and a second show to taper off the night - these have been a continuing tradition for the last 8 years. After this I leave for 2 days for the high-point of the vacation...a day at kumarakom coconut grove in a houseboat with my buddies from college - the savages for company and the next day at varkala beach resort. I am faced with a tough decision - whether I should go or not...a realisation that 7 days of lost study does mean a lot has come in...lets see what my heart tells me at the last moment.

The feeling of goin thru the most dangerous phase of my life is driving me, it will be all or nothing at the end of this journey. When I swam with the tide I just had to keep afloat and that wuz enuf to i feel a lot of spirit, the kind i never knew existed in me. My mom and i were making fun of my dad that he wud soon have to give up astrology as, the shukran he predicted for me had turned out this way and he gave us a sheepish smile with a dont-tell-anyone look. I am really thankful for my parents, despite their fears we talked and joked so much in those few days...they were god's first and most enduring gift to me... hope I can soon prove to be the other way round!! Anyways to round off with a bit of oddity, I read once again about Raja Rammohan Roy in History and remembered once more what he me he is as great as Gandhi bcoz he was the lone braveheart and first Indian in an age of utter decadance to raise a political agitation against the British...the first man to realize we fell to the British bcoz we lived and studied and glorified our past without perceing how Europe and the world modernized with an emphasis on scientific thought and learning. So until the next spark to write, its alvida from me...i wish i had more time for access to internet!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Chalo Dilli!!!

Arrived in Delhi. What do I say about this place? I am absolutely enthralled. Its an absoutely new experience for me...a new culture, a new language, new friends. I need to ge used to Delhi's shabbiness, dust, traffic and Hindi and I'll be absolutely fine here. All I knew of North India was thru books, films and the few good friends I acquired at USC...otherwise I've known little of India outside Kerala...being here itself feels like an education. Got a decent accomodation,my roomies are Assamese...they are nice guys and really helpful. I have already travelled quite a bit around thanks to my cousin's husband who drove me around quiet a bit of delhi and I walked around too quite a lot. I live near the north campus of Delhi University and its all infested with sudents here. The idea of Delhi being unsafe for women got lost for me as I see gals walking alone even at 11 at night.

Classes started today. My teacher Prof.Jha is just brilliant. I am really looking forward to a year of challenging myself to the extreme limit. He has set for me an 14hrs a day studying schedule...more on that in a later post. A cook comes in and makes us lunch and dinner and he does a good job. The climate here is pleasant for now but everyones warning me of the bitter winter setting in by december. When you guys hav kids and they are in school, shop for their books for a lifetime only in Delhi....y'all cud save a fortune. I am getting 30 and 40% discount...the bloody bookstore guys in tvm have really milked us dry of what wud have been good pocketmoney during those years of need in college. My hindi is improving rapidly. Still a lot of gaffes but I'll get there. My mobile fone still not working...heard i need to reinstall some software coz its US-made...eitherways i really dont need it. It sucks that I am not being able to check out all your blogs...but i'll soon start to make time...after all whats life when your only surviving hobby has also got to be suppressed. Before leaving tvm, got time to talk to fellow blogger, FlaashGordon but cudnt get hold of Neil when I called.

The reason I blog even due to lack of time and a computer at home is not anymore about my love and passion for writing. Its for all you family and friends affectionately following my progress in this endeavor. It will be impossible mailing you all personally again. Besides after reading about the Indus Valley Civilizaion I just wondered how it would feel for a human 3000 years from now to read abt a Jiby Kattakayam, his friends, and his life in places like Trivandrum, Los Angeles and Delhi....well that is if Blogspot survives...ooh dont think I have already cracked up!!! So consider this as me writing personally to you all. I realized this is the first time in life that since internet arrived I have not had it at my fingertips. This is a post I wrote in two shifts of 20 mins each when i came to browse at this cybercafe. India rocks guys...India rocks...I was always meant to be here. I love my India.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Heady Days...

The last few days I went thru old photos from college and school that had been lying on my computer for years and years. Thought of selecting a few and uploading here.
Snap 1 - The Kaadan Demo
Snap 2 - Viswan, the Mooppan!!!
Snap 3 - Bermuda Demo!!! Standing - Shinoj, Jofu, Jijo, Kozhi, Arun , me and Chaks...Sitting - Kevin, Shan, Sandy & Viswan
Snap 4 - Gundu, Ponnan, Muthu, Motta, Thomman and Jofu @ School - Undoubtedly our batch will become Loyola's best!
Snap 5 - With Motta at Kovalam - One of my favorite snaps for all time.

For a few days...

Hectic is the word. By monday I was fighting a losing battle against time. Booked my train ticket to Delhi and bus ticket to Thodupuzha at Thampanoor...I actually took the dear old city buses there, got on a new bus service called Ananthapuri Fast and for the first time sat back and relaxed and observed all the new, old and renovated structures that have come up over the last few years. After taking the tickets, I walked over to East Fort to visit the National Book Fair going on a the Putharikandam Maidan, crossing the rail tracks, and as I passed by the Ajantha theatre I looked at my watch, realized I had 10 mins to the 11:15 show of Ananthabhadram, though the balcony seats were sold out I was never a stranger to the "thara" seats. Barely made it in on time, the movie what do I say about it, I am the wrong person to review it since I had read the novel already(i read it an 8-hour stretch like a spell wuz cast on me!) and the story has changed considerably to adapt it to the silver screen which sort of pissed me off...but if you wanna see some great camera-work, great editing, beautiful sets and a film without the superstar concept dont miss this one. About the acting this movie belongs to Manoj K. Jayan and Prithviraj all the way.

Evening my closest bud from Loyola, Anand aka Motta(he gave me my Jabban nickname) came visiting and we sat and talked and joked for some time before he dropped me off at the bus-stand. He is getting married in May and tomorrow I head out for lunch with him and his fiancee (he had 6 girlfriends before this one and i remarked i have an idea for an autograph movie and he retorted with a "onnalla rando moonno autograph ninakke eduthhoode aa kathakalokke veche"!!!)... On the way we had a providential escape as the bus driver dozed off and insterad of falling over a cliff, hitting a vehicle or banging into a home crashed into a load of metal piled on the roadside for road-work. The entire front part of the air-bus was damaged, though scared shitless nobody ever complained...people seem so used to this kind of incidents...neways got to moolamattom without any further problems. On getting down I realized I had forgotten the way to my grandparents house...the funny thing about villages is if you ask people a question they take it as a license that in return they can ask anything about us!!! So instead of just telling me the way, they want to know which family i am from, what i am doing now and how i am related to the home i am going to!!

My grandmom has hunch-backed even further, my grandpa fit as a fiddle, even at 80 still driving a kinetic honda and a fiat car, not showing any signs of slowing up...this is their 60th year of marriage, yet they fight like schoolkids and they dont feel any embarassment in their grandson having to play mediator(i gave him a chivas regal and all day long appachan and ammachi were playing a cat-and-mouse game finding and hiding it from their respective hiding places!!!) Oh I had so much fun that day. Went to my native village Arakulam, visited my dad's and appachans brothers... its a fascinating land as i have written abt before...just acres and acres of rubber, just silence and solitude,and not even a neighbor in the vicinity...sunday's at church is the big social event in these places!!! Had some real tasty food...the food I have enjoyed for the last one week wuz just awesome!!! At night said goodbye to my grandparents and headed back to tvm was a quick 18 hour affair at Arakulam, have never paid such a short visit to appachan and ammachi, i wuz dead tired on arriving back, and i fell sick too. missed my train to delhi, went to a doctor who gave me some good medicines and here i am back to checking out all your blogs after almost a week.

I look at people here and i see so much apathy to fellow-beings and so much competition to survive...what i see on tv irriatates me, they show the nightclub culture and materialism of america, but they dont show how americans are law-abiding, orderly citizens who work honestly for a living and treat others courteously. Our population has to be brought down....otherwise there will never be dignity for a human life.About India, let me not talk about the bad things anymore. I see a lot of stuff which seemed liveable with, in an earlier time and age but not anymore. Maybe in a few months I will get used to it or not. Knowing the right people and working the system gets you results here. I am really tempted to find a job in tvm and settle down - there is so much of my kind of life here - the friends, the movies, the thattukadas and my people and my language I guess I will give the CS a few years effort and then see what is to be done next. And to taper off...I wonder...why cant Thiruvananthapuram be renamed means the same, is shorter, sweeter and has been used by our writers for ages, as a sobriquet for The City of Ananthan!!!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Where Everything is Mine...

Back home. Back in paradise. Back as an Indian and not a tourist. Wow, it feels great. 24 hours a day seems so do all I want to (and to think there used to be times i wondered why a day couldnt be 16 hours!!). I dont seem to miss anything...I dont even seem to remember the 3 1/2 years spent away. It just feels like I have always been here. I have melted into the system earlier than I thought. In the last 48 hours, came face to face with frustrating babudom when an Air India offcial at LA imposed a hefty fine of $266 for overweight baggage, paid a small token of appreciation to a porter-boy working at Jet Airways to save me the fine at Bombay Airport, back home after getting psyched out seeing all the crazy driving now I am honking away to glory, the car just in the same condition i left it - barely a few thousand kms added to it, i almosy hit a few crazy bikers, but despite that 30000 miles of orderly American left-wheel automatic driving seems to have evaporated totally from memory!

I thought it immensely patriotic of me to fly Air-India. But how stupid of me to even bother trying it out despite all the warnings I got from friends!! Their officials still seem to be stuck in the license-raj era of no competition and I cried and begged with them for my baggage and of my returning for good but to no avail. I told them straight in the face I would never fly Air India again and how Singapore Airlines would never do this to me...they didnt seem to care but a gal working there felt sorry for me and cut down the fine...time to privatise these b#$%tards! As always whenever I landed in tvm I have been met with pouring rain...this time wuz no different...but despite the rains the humidity just increases with each year...and despite what I saw from above on the flight...unlike other places every inch of kerala looked green, much like europe...i think its not our fault...lets blame it on global warming!!! I have had 4 showers already in the last 24 feels so fresh coming out of the bathroom but in half an hour I start thinking about another bath!

My dad is on his wits end since I made this decision...he is sending many of his students who wrote the CS exams my way and there are many more ppl i will be forced to meet...but hearing them out has been very mom, ever-cool and jolly wuz joking that bcoz of me in his "oonilum orakkathilum ithu maatrame chintha olle". The basement, my favorite place in the house, where i fine-tuned my cricket, and table-tennis skills has been rented bedroom has been turned into a guest-room and an a/c and geyser fitted there...all my novels in our library have been taken out and replaced by dads books, the 6 year old computer has aged further and looks like a relic and not been replaced and crashes the moment i open a few windows..looks like nobody ever expected me to come back!!!

Trivandrum is changing, there is an obvious emphasis on developing infrastructure, but our people seem not to have changed...maybe something like the saksharatha claSSes of the 80's and 90's will help...civic sense needs to be drilled into their heads. Well, despite all this I am grinning from ear to ear after a long long feels great to have a sense of belonging and to be amongst my own people. After 2 months, nobody even needed to tell me...I woke up at 8 and went to church...i absolutely felt no wuz hilarious to see my mom stare at me open-mouthed!!! I have a week at home and two days at my native place before I leave to delhi for the most gruelling year of my life...wonder how many of my friends I will get to meet...even watching Ananthabhadram looks doubtful!!! I had 30 mins before I head out to meet another CS-aspirant and since all my friends read this blog decided to post in a sis made the most telling comment about this blog when she remarked even she would henceforth be forced to following my life thru this site and not thru fone calls for which I have no patience!!! One thing, I know for sure, Civil Service or no civil service, I want to live in Trivandrum for the rest of my life.

Monday, October 31, 2005

The Last Days...

Why did life have to be so tough??? The best part of my american life was the people i met, befriended and who endeared to me in ways I will never ever forget for a lifetime. The last few days i have experienced a happiness that found its way to finishing my packing, days in advance accompanied by the melancholic hues of parting. Friday night, I went for my last malayalam film, ever in LA - Bharathchandran I.P.S with my juniors...they remarked that going for a movie will never be the same again without me - all I could tell them was thanks for accompanying me for even the most horrendous of movies and never complaining for wasting their money even if the movie turned out bad. Saturday night, I went to the home and the people whose affection, simplicity and friendship I will never ever again find emulated in my life. My life in LA began 3 1/2 years back from their home...Babuettan and Binduchechi and their three children Sachin, Sidhu and most of all Sethu who were undoubtedly my best friends here. On the way, I talked to Bipin Sadhwani, I told him how I couldnot have an excuse for not being at his wedding now...we talked a lot until suddenly the car ahead of me sudden-braked, I saw it early and braked too, my tires screeched, but the van behind me was late, and he swerved to the next lane to avoid hitting was a close call. Bipin wudnt talk to me after that and hung up...I thought fondly of my tempestuous relationship with him but then we were part of some great adventures too.

Babuettan and Binduchechi were happy for me, but their faces couldnt hide the sadness. To the kids, I tried my level best to tell them in all the simple words I could muster that their Jiby Uncle was leaving, but it wasnt of any use. They were cheerful as always, telling me they would see me in India...I am sure the kids will ask about me for a few days and like classmates they leave behind at an old school would forget me as a good memory of the past. Sethu, only 1 1/2 when I first landed here, and the light of my existence, I hugged him tightly, watched Tarzan with him, quarrelled with him - called him a baby for a last time, oh he is such a smart aleck now with a ready tongue, kissed and pinched his chubby cheeks a hundred times, tried telling him I would miss him and all he said was, he would be a big boy when I saw him next.... I felt my eyes welling up then. Like good old days when Jisha, Binduchechi, Babuettan and me would huddled around the table as usual at dinner in animated chatter...we did it one last time, my toungue loosened by a couple of pegs of chivas, babuettan poured to me, we talked about the future...someday about their plans to return, and how I should return if nothing worked out, the kind of gal I would marry and a lot of jokes followed about that...including the three new suits the kids got and how they asserted they would only wear it first time for my wedding.

I had to tear my way out...had planned to attend church at 11 at USC...but it was impossible to leave these people who gave me so much love and friendship...I baulked and baulked...I decided to give church a miss...finally gathered my wits, grabbed the kids hastily and said byes...binduchechi wished me like nobody else would ever match her affection, babuettan told me like the last 31/2 years his house would always remain open to me and that he would be there to help me any way he could...I cried all the way back home. Evening, again missed church...I dont know why i keep doing that...My classmates from school, I wonder if they called, we now have a call-conference which runs to a few hours every sunday evening now...but today I gave it a miss...I was just not in a mood to say anymore goodbyes. Last week however wuz non-stop comedy, old memories, poking fun, people were getting disconnected, fone batteries were dying out, ppl wud call someone and get back on-line...and in between one of these disruptions there was a brief silence.
Muthu asks: "Aarekke ondade ippam"
Someone replies: "Njan Onde. Avanum Onde"...and after a brief silence..."Pinne Mattavanum Onde"!!!
Muthu totally confused asks: "Ethe Njan, Ethe Avan, Ethe Mattavan!!!!!"
Its impossible to bade farewell to these guys...from 5 to 25 we kept falling all over each other, kept in touch like crazy, our school egroups sees like 150+ emails a month...I am sure they are all going to do great.

At night went to sujith's house at USC...mathew also walked in, simi, sujith's wife had as usual cooked a sumpuous dinner of kappa, fish curry, rice, aviyal and sambhar though I'd threatened not to come if she made anything out of the ordinary. After school got over in May'04, I hardly saw these guys a dozen times since but every time we meet we pick off our conversations in the same jolly manner like the old days when we used to meet almost every day. They warned me i was taking the hardest possible route to settling in India and how easy it was to get demoralized if I listened too much to the people around me. We broke up, promising to meet again, in India, I am sure I will meet all these people...too many wonderful memories ever to forget these wonderful people. I am back home now, my sis and I talked for a long time, then we quarrelled real badly, and she went to sleep. After going on a tangent for a year our lives now divert again. She was the one person who had the power to keep me here, but she said "Go for it"...I wrote this post I dont know for what, maybe to relieve my mind of all the farewells I bade and didnt...I sleep real late these days...dont think i'll be jet-lagged on getting back. Should I post this or not, wht the hell, i've written far worser here it comes, but I wonder what my feelings will be to read this post, 2 years from now...would it be a feeling of loss, or a swelling-out of sweet memories that will accompany me then?? If you all still have the patience to read me, we'll find out together!!!

Snap 1 - Thats Sachin on Babuettans lap, Sidhu on top of me and Sethu dangling from my leg.
Snap 2- Thats my sweet, cuddly hamster on my lap.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Some Cricketing Memories...

Sachin Tendulkar's 93 and 70 has brought a smile back on every indian face. Last 3 1/2 years I didnt miss much cricket because his form and fitness had gone downhill ever since. And though Arun Hari wrote about our sporting interests I thought of some cricketing memories that were worth penning down. When we played a good team in college most of us were reduced to bits-and-pieces cricketers but playing against ourselves on the medicos grounds or against average teams we totally trannsformed into the Cyber Tigers that we gave as the name of our team. Sometimes we played like 10 10-over matches at a stretch on a single day...and those days happened quite often in a college were we encouraged student leaders to call a strike for the most craziest reasons like a new mohanlal film releasing or sometimes for no reason at all. Still remember a strike called in CET where a senior let loose water from the tank and the guys called a strike for water-shortage!!!

The medicos basketball court surrounded by trees and overgrown plants and wild grass was our home-ground. We would travel on bikes and arrive at viswan's house...take his bat, grab water-tumblers, caps, he would put on his sun-glasses gotten free from buying boost(he claims they were ray-ban though) and we would arrive with a lot of hullabaloo and a feeling of great self-importance at the ground. The fighting starts from the moment the teams are selected, Viswan more often than not unhappy with the team he himself wuz involved in selecting, moving over to the toss, a quarrel whether the toss went heads or tails, to a fight inside the batting team on the batting order...chaos, chaos all the way. But then I guess we were all so spirited and ethusiastic, and did it all in good fun. The fall-guy wuz always the umpire who had to be from the batting team...a decision he made could never be good or bad completely. If he gave a batsman out or ruled a run against his own team...the choicest abuse in malayalam wud be hurled at times at him, if he ruled against the fielding side he risked getting beaten up...but then the funny thing wuz at the end of every match whatever happened it wuznt odd to see one man, looking sour and complaining how his team-mates underperformed and very seriously planning his strategy for the next match...he took a loss so seriously he would listen with sharpened ears to everything the rival-team said, hoping to glean their gameplan - that is if there were any in the first place.

Once I remember after a game, everybody else was resting but not Viswan - he wanted to fine-tune his bowling and told me to take guard...i hit a huge straight-six which landed on the terrace of the men's hostel and he sportingly went to get it. When he returned I wuz surprised that he still wanted to bowl and to even my own surprise I hit another six to the same terrace. Now Viswan wuz mad, he wouldnt get the ball and forced me to go. From the terrace, I threw the ball back and headed down. On the way down wuz met by a irritated yet gleeful Arun Hari. Viswan had forced him to take guard disrupting his rest and he too hit a six to the same place!!! Another time, we started playing at 10 in the morning...and after sometime two souls...totally disoriented arrived shakily on a bike, shan and anoop. A little into the game, anoop's shoulder dislocated when he fielded carelessly, we rushed him to medical college, where the doctor said..."njanum vellamadikkum, but raavile 10 manikkadikkunna oruthane njan aadyamaayitte kaanuva". Anoop in unbearable pain shouts out, "Panna *@$%*!# mone, vaachakam adikkaathe ente kai sheriyakkada"!!! We thought he wuz in for it, but the doc was thankfully a jolly, young fellow. And then chakka shouted at shan saying "Nee, kaaranam alle avanithe pattiyathu" and to our utter surprise, Shan the then-ruffian broke out inconsolably into took us a lot to comfort him that day, even to this day we make fun of his sensitive side which got revealed many times since that day. Then there wuz this incident which became part of our day viswan was so woefully out of touch with the bat, that even after a hard day's play he made ken bowl at him for close to an hour to regain his technique. Oh! those were the good days.

So many more incidents like Kevin unarguably our best player, who we joked, would bowl,then run to get the ball where the batsman hit it, even if one of us lazy souls were close to it, in case it got lost in the kuttikaadu he wud find it, aim at the stumps and more often than not knock it down...he made up for the slackness his teammates displayed and always inspired us to match him. But then, Viswan would wonder why even the Kevin magic failed to work when he had him in his team. But as a captain, viswan was a player's dream...he would buy us juice and sambharam to energise us in between a tournament or even our internal medicos games so that we wud win him a game. Dont think we'll all ever have the time or the numbers to play a game again...but those cricket matches, will always remain among the best memories we took out of college.

P.S - Snap - 1 : Our Eden Gardens - Medicos ground
Snap - 2 : Ball Lost!!!
Snap - 3 : A Kodak Moment - Viswan's legendary mischeivious smile caught on camera!!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

And Now, The NRI Votebank...

After the politics of reservation, religion and regional causes here comes a new votebank that politicians in Kerala and India can aim to corner...the NRI votebank. The Congress-led Kerala government has prepared the draft for a bill giving voting rights to NRK's. Almost the entire top leadership of the Congress in Kerala is now in Delhi lobbying with Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi to get Central approval for a bill which may turn around the Congress' fortunes in Kerala.

I dont know the exact figures of NRK's abroad but i am sure it must be atleast 15 lakh(the overall number of mallus outside kerala must be atleast 50 lakh or 1/6 of state's population!!) and if the massive campaign for the Smart City on the net is anything to go by and from my own interaction with and knowledge of mallus outside kerala the UDF looks set to corner a majority of these votes...remains to be seen if the government can get the logistics of this complex operation of collecting international votes in place by next May when elections are due.

An undeniable aspect of Kerala's well-being today is the emigration of Keralites to places outside and their massive investment back into the State which helped us overcome the crippling effects of militant trade unionism, industrial stagnation and zero job creation. The left parties though unhappy i doubt will raise a voice because they realize the only reason they still survive is because kerala overcame the bad effects of communism thru this continous inflow of money that kept the whole economy on its toes.

I read somewhere that the total difference in votes between the LDF and UDF in the panchayat election was 7 lakh...with the NRI vote plus the increase in udf supporters who sat at home for last months election I hope Congress(I) makes up the deficit in the assembly elections. Its not that I am a hardcore Congress supporter but this government is doing such a great job compared to previous ones that they definitely deserve a 5 year term and not the 20 months they will get now. The irony is that if other states bring up such bills the Congress High Command will be in trouble as I have seen most Non-Resident Indians, north of the Vindhyas to be ardent supporters of the BJP.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

A Journey Begins...

Thank You all for the support. When I blogged that last post I was admittedly unsure about what to do next. But I have looked at my options, thought them all out and I know what I am going to do. I am going to prepare for the IAS exams...history, geography, english, civics, economics, gk and current affairs were always my strengths in loyola, the last few days I have spent reading the vast syllabus and I realize I am goin to gain so much knowledge with this effort it will finally drive me to what I always wanted to do...write books. Besides if I get through I will be working at the grassroots, I'll actually be dealing with people's problems, I get to implement a lot of policies and I know I am street-smart enough to have my way around our politicians. And the best part is, if I qualify thru the prelims there's a Malayalam paper I would need to prepare for and I look forward to reading all those wonderful novels in Malayalam i missed and man...maybe that will help me even write a script for a mallu film.

The way I see it...and as you guys will have felt after reading the above para, its a win-win situation whatever happens, I have thought my vistas out well, I am not somebody who makes a decision for the heck of it. I am amazed at the clarity with which I see things now, coming to the US was the right decision because I have seen life, I have faced hardships, I have known disappointment, I have seen the world, I became so much wiser and finally it gave me the courage and determination to pursue the IAS. Doing my B.Tech brought out all my abilities among a very encouraging set of friends and M.S gave me a technological edge which I am sure is goin to help me in the road ahead and the last 1.5 years helped me to realize how mediocre my life was goin to turn out if I went to work just praying for evening to turn up, and then left work in the evening praying for night-time so that I could go to sleep. I am planning to return by the second week of november and make up for lost time. I'll be stationed at trivandrum and studying with correspondence material...all those great libraries, my dad's friends in the ias are resources that will keep me focussed in this himalayan task besides the reassuring presence of my ammachi, pops and mom.

I am bracing up for a few years drowned in books, I am feeling sorry for my parents, as happy as they are with my choice I can feel the fear that envelopes them for their son who is leaving behind a life of comforts, a country of plenty and possibly great wealth and that too at an an age when i was naturally expected to take their matters too into my hands, thinking of them will make sure I wont let my guard down for even a minute. The last few days I got many emails of encouragement from school and collegemates which I will day when I get to my destination all those emails will be posted here. In a way this habit of blogging opened up a pandora's box in my life... the more I became honest with the posts I put up here, the more troubled I kept getting and of sinking further and further into a life that would lead me only into unhappiness...dunno when I'll be able to blog again...lot of loose ends remain to be tied up here before I leave...i again have a lakshya in life...and nothing beats that feeling!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Oops...I Did It Again!!!

Hmmmmmm! Well forget two months of stayin away from blogging...I am back to where I belong in less than two weeks...and i feel real sheepish forcing you guys to leave comments on that last unneccessary post. Oh...well 10 days is a short time, but thats more than enough to change a lot of things in my life. I quit my 85k job, my fourth job in little over a year and am back in the cool confines of my apartment living out my last days in America. The trip to India will actually be the last return of this native. Never thought i could do a nri-returnee so early in life, infact despite all my boasts never thought i could summon up the guts to ever make this decision. Sad part and hard part is i have no absoluting freakin idea what to do next in life. I have tried four times and failed to find my space in IT...I dont wanna be pressured by monetary concerns to be led down that way again. WTF...I have known hunger already in life...with Rs.30 a day I could have two square yummy meals a day and I am no stranger to travelling on ksrtc buses, if I spend wise, I have almost an year of savings to fall back on. There's a lot I hope to do travel across the length and breadth of India. Be with me, my God...go with me all they ways I need to traverse, before I find my right calling and can safely say its time to settle down.

Well, it all began the night I decided to quit blogging...Oct 6th...I had the "Never Say" post ready to go out that day, had just been offered a full-time position by Universal, I was ahead with my whole life ahead looked blissfully comfortable, decided to wait a few more days till my blog anniversary to see if the wait would change my mind about blogging. But then, then I got struck down by a flu...what seemed like a normal fever still hasnt left completely...I didnt give it the rest it deserved I guess, I was back to work in a hurry trying to keep ahead of the schedule, but that messed up my body totally...and with that my work went downhill...thinking about the work gave me trouble sleeping, a whole vicious cycle started and before the last week ended I was totally fatigued, my mind had numbed out, I hated my work and I hated myself even more for trying to become somebody I was not...I was never meant to be a programmer, looking back every struggle be it the MS, be it the 4 jobs later, all today look like an attempt to cover up a decision made 7 years back about doing my B.Tech.

Except for collegemates and my sis, nobody in my family knows about my resignation and the decision to leave America...i havent told my schoolmates yet, coz then my fone wont ever stop ringing. I know all hell will break parents are away in Kashmir where my dad has a conference besides they both takin a much-deserved, though ill-timed vacation...when they know of it I hope they back me to the hilt with this one as they always have. The rest, my uncles, aunts and cousins...I know what they will say...there's a lot of flak awaiting me from that quarter for "squandering" my good luck(read green card!) phone is switched off all the time now! I guess they cant be application for US citizenship has taken dust over the last few months as I baulked at mailing it...what I am doing I agree wont make sense to 90% of practical people. My sister has decided to return back to US after her xmas vacation...I wuz scared my decision would make her position weak...she has a wonderful job she enjoys doing and has a good set of friends too now. I was never ever a good brother to her...I should have stayed on till she got married...but I am thinking selfishly...I am not getting younger and time's running out on a life I've not ever had regrets to this point...I still need to find out what to do with my life and in America, with a Master's degree in Computer Science, plenty of software jobs and an Indian accent I know I'll forever be strait-jacketed in the IT field. I wonder if a better future will await me in India.

Before leaving work yesterday in frustration and a last-ditch effort to find an answer to how fast everything could turn upside down in life, I typed God on google and hit the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button. It took me to the Interview With God site. Whenever friends have sent it to me I've never been in the mindset to see it. I have realized for quite some time God has stopped talking to me or hearing what I have to say...well I've not been to a church for almost two months to hear His Word either. After the presentation, I knew I was doing the right thing, there would always be God to back me up, whenever I had nothing, whenver I was empty-handed, whenever I looked to him for solace...those have been the times I felt his presence and I have felt then I was the luckiest boy alive, not the times when I was happily surrounded by friends, not the times I achieved anything, not the times I looked at my little wealth and smirked I never saw or felt Him around me. I have 50 days to rethink...after that I can walk in to an IT firm in tvm, cochin, madras or bangalore any day and get my developer job, I have 5 months to the IAS prelims and almost a year to the CAT...none of these vistas appeal much to me, besides there's always a road open to self-ruin I have seen too many people walking into. Instead of a hallowed royal arrival - of relatives and family friends inviting me to dinner, and of nights spent at resorts and houseboats with friends, a damp welcome will await me...none of that scares me, all I know is I just cant wait to rediscover my India and rediscover myself, the India I came so close to leaving behind forever in memories, God willing, I want to once again believe in the saying I once vouched for...Everything Happens for Your Own Good!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Never Say, Never Again...

And finally, my anniversary beautiful year of tugging at my heart and soul has passed by...all i have written has surprised me...never thought i could be so honest about myself with so many friends, family and strangers reading. Life certainly has come back a full circle...i still remember keying down the first post at the san diego state university library, tired of job applications, worrying where the next job would come from, a bank account strained to the last penny, in a vast city with not a single soul i could call a friend, reading this article on rediff about blogging and deciding to give it a try...and here I am, 45 posts later...having made the most of what first started as a hobby, then a time-killer and today a passion. Cant forget the first time I publicized this blog, hesitatly to classmates, when Arun Hari also started to write, the first comments on this blog when Neil came visiting, and then Silverine and thru their sites came to know of the wonderful fraternity of kerala bloggers already sharing their wares.

I have connected with so many talented mallus miles and miles away from me as we admired each other's writings, exchanged viewpoints and broadened our horizons, reading what ordinary people like me do to make the most of our lives. Visiting all your blogs has become my first priority while kicking off the morning's work and i've been so able to relate to all what you guys write that i have found it hard to curb my comments from getting long and infuriating. Every comment you guys left here have been so has given me so much confidence and driven me to write a better blog the next time on...I will definitely keep in touch with you all and look forward to meeting as many of you as possible in december. And I've been pleasantly surprised by quite a few silent readers emailing to convey their appreciation for my blogs. I have wondered whether its a nice idea to take a small break from blogging and get back to it refreshed and rejuvenated during the india trip in december. My posts have become stale, my perspectives repetitive, and having found my comfort zones my writing style failed to evolve, nor did I make the effort to nudge myself out.

I approached this post certain that this would be my last. But as the post took shape I realized I was in danger of eating my words. Countless times in the past year, even under the severe grip of the writers' block I have overcome all my mental barriers to keep my dear blog going. The two-month break I plan to take is going to be hard on me but then time flies...the flights of fantasy that await me in december will certainly get my creative and literary juices flowing again. I hope to return to my blogging with a vengeance then. Meanwhile with the free time that opens up I am goin to sit down and start a new writing project...besides I am entering soon into my first business venture here with a friend. I have also realized if making my livelihood doesnt have anything to do with writing or doing something creative I dont want to come back home(thats as crazy as i get!)...I'd be as much happy here. Over the course of the last one year I hate myself for having conveyed to my family, grand illusions of literary talent, who believe I have supposedly inherited them from an ancestor who wuz a mahakavi. Its a heavy cross i will always bear, and I can never rest in peace unless I make an honest effort...and thats why I badly need this sabbattical from blogging and focus all my energies on this new writing "misadventure".

Some months back, I realized I was no more writing just for myself, I began imagining myself to be some columnist with a few dozen dedicated readers, that I believe is the power of the makes us journalists who raise questions about society and politics, satirists who mock prevalent norms, authors whose ordinary lives find exaltation in their writings. I know not if all the predictions of blogs replacing todays forms of mass media like newspapers, magazines, etc will happen but I know on a personal front the huge impact having a blog has had on my psyche, it has been my alter-ego, more than anything else I am left with wonderful memories in published form for eternity which i will keep revisiting, and there is so much still left to pen down, I know I will come back...

AMDG - Ad Majorem Dei Glorium

Friday, October 07, 2005

Gimme a Reason...

The dust is yet to settle down on Kerala's Panchayat elections. Alliances and last-minute adjustments are still on...ironically politics is only for the common man...for politicians convenience has become the byword. The hilarious spectacle of CPM-BJP, Congress-BJP, Congress-CPM, League-BJP, League-CPM tie-ups in many of Kerala's villages indicate how grassroot politics work despite all the bravado and stances taken by state leaders. Despite all this, what left me most disheartened was the cold-shoulder Keralites lend to a Chief Minister who has worked tirelessly and almost 24/7 in bringing so much development and dynamicity to a government machinery which has stagnated all these years and as I write, this man is in Chandigarh attending the Chief Ministers conference and bagging more funds, projects and support from the central government. Shame on you all!

Oommen Chandy's sins:
1) Bringing a Smart City Project to be located on land provided in 60's and 70's to industries to set up shop and start functioning but who stayed away bcoz of fear of lockouts, militant trade unions and which left all that prime real estate unused all these years.
2) The much delayed expansion of the Trivandrum International Airport which has been in the negotiating phase for 20 years and he achieved it in 6 months.
3) The Palayam underpass...another project which wuz talked and talked abt for years! What I love most about the Congress is how much our Trivandrum roads have widened over the last 4 years of their rule!!
4) The Vallarpadam Trans-Shipment Terminal - Though Antony got the sanction for it, it has been Chandy's pereseverance as he lobbied with tirelesssly with Manmohan to make this project realize fruition and make Cochin the hottest cargo destination in the Indian Ocean.
5) The Mass Contact Program - No CM has dared to step outside the air-conditioned comforts of the Cliff House or Secretariat so regularly and interface with the public, hear out their complaints, take steps to solve their problems like OC has done...visiting 14 districts, sitting with the people 12 hours at a stretch clearing files which had gathered so much of dust over the ages....comeon mates give this man something to cheer about.

Its a pity, all thats wrong with Kerala's pseudo-morality gets blamed on this man... if an ice-cream parlor case, kiliroor sex-scandal, VAT implementation all gathers flak...we as citizens are equally responsible to prevent these from happening just as much a politicians. VAT succeeded in Andhra Pradesh but failed in Kerala...despite an astute man like Vakkom Purushothaman at the helm, the powerful Vyapari Vyavasayi Bullshit Samiti has ensured the valuable revenue collection that wuz needed to take all our develolment efforts ahead failed. So much is being made of the DICK-factor in these polls, but everyone knows how badly they fared in places they stood without CPM support...again shame on all you people who could vote for an enemy of the state like Murali and Karunakaran. What a pity, Antony didnt quit much earlier...4 years of his hesitation(or fear?) to act against dissidence have alienated the people from the Congress. Our 92% literate and most politically-aware state saw 9 MLA's make a mockery of democracy by affixing their loyalty to Mr.K rather than the people who voted them in by resigning their seats. Thankfully the days of blackmail and political brinkmanship are over...

I was so disappointed with the election results until I talked to my mom, who said the UDF actually stands a bright chance in the assembly elections. With a 60% polling rate, the victory margins for the cpm were not big though they they won 70% of the seats in this elections. In assembly elections Kerala has an almost 80%+ polling rate and this 20% rise is entirely made up of udf voters who are unfortunately not as politically zealous as their left brethren to venture out of their homes on polling day. Her reasoning gave me a lot of hope. Moreover I remember the case of Digvijay Singh in Madhya Pradesh who overcame incumbency in a strange way much similar to what the Congress is going through today. After winning a landslide election and first term he lost every following by-election, parliament and panchayat polls but turned the predictions of every political pundit around by winning a second term as Chief Minister. Well, Kerala never had a CM win a second straight term but this is a crucial year in our State's history and development and we finally have a man who is humble, sincere, courageous and intelligent and has the long-term plans, the political will-power and the energy needed to undo 40 years of Kerala's self-destruction. All you people, wont you give him another chance, for our sake and for our future generations, if not, gimme a sound reason...

Monday, October 03, 2005

Drowned by a Song...

Its Sunday, 8:30 pm. In my cubicle trying to kick ass ahead of a trying development schedule, further aggravated by my leaving for India midway. Its so quiet all around me...I just love the ambience of my office at night, nobody to disturb my train of thought and at the 24th floor, I look thru a colleague's telescope down at so much human activity...the last children coming out of the theme park, the editors and sound engineers at universal studios burning the midnight oil lost in their work, the dark windows of the Sheraton beyond which my naughty spirit thirsts for a peek, the city lights and the cars with their headlights in the distance making quite a pretty sight. I feel so far away from the city and its million hordes of which I am another insignificant soul. I have realized, I am just not in the mood to wrack my brains. Its a nice time to blog, my mind is far far away from the confines of this building, the vastness of this country, the infinite expanse of the seven seas and falling through a tiny hole, deeper and deeper into a dark abstract region called nostalgia whose workings in me i still fail to understand but which ironically lights up my existence whenever it gets monotonous.

Chanthupotte made its rounds by LA this weekend and our guys decided to watch it with a lot of misgivings. Well who could blame us...after all, the hero, Dileep wuz playing a Hijra and for mallus so used to their moustacheoued heroes who are manliness personified there wuz a mental block to overcome here. But we came out satisfied, the movie didnt lapse to cliches like the hero turning manly after the interval or to the end which raised the movie a few notches and finally credit has to go to has to be the best-ever performance by one our heroes in a few years, he doesnt let down his guard in even a single he playes the effemminate Radha-krishnan to perfection. Well it wasnt my intention to write about the movie but the effect one of the songs in that, "Azhakkadalinte Angekarayilaayi" soulfully rendered by the timeless nightingale, S.Janaki and emoted to sublimity by Sukumari has had on me since then...its so beautiful and it brought back such a flood of memories..I thought of all the women who joined hands to bring me up...and out of nowhere the blogging process which I fear is dying within me re-awakened.

From my mom(a post on her will come some day and it will be my best) in whose lap, the moment I rest my head, even today in a few minutes I fall asleep, my maternal grandmother whose folk songs must have put me to sleep so many times those days and even later, when she knew we were studying well, would come up from behind and sing to us a few lines as a reward and when we begged her to sing more would back off with a shy smile(this december one of my projects is to beg, plead, cry and threaten her to sing all those harvest songs once more for me to record for posterity)...oh she's the most beautiful woman in the whole world, my paternal grandma...with the most sweetest smile in the whole world, so innocent and childlike and talkative ever since I've known her and all the heroics and mischief's of my ancestors from my great-great grandpa to my dad and uncles that she would recount and the spell that it would cast on me, and all the subconscious ways that must have affected me. My maternal grand-aunt whose only son became a priest leaving us as her grandchildren by default and oh...what a treasure trove of stories she is about my toddler days and my eyes always well up in tears when she tells us fondly of how I fell sick once and kept puking all over my face, and how my little eyes blinked up at her thru the vomit and with all the menfolk away how she took me up and ran many a mile across the paddy fields to the meppilikutti hospital.

This december I will savor each and every moment I get to spend with my three ageing girlfriends and our home which has been silent for so long will once more echo with laughter and light up with happiness...finally things have started to change...these days I look forward to spending more time with family rather than friends though i worry how i'll accomodate time for all these dear souls...we will once again make fun of my ammachi asking her "appachan ammachiyode I love you enne paranjittondo" and she will blush and run to my mom complaining "mole, ee pillere enne kaliyaaakkunnu" and my mom will give a sly smile and plot her escape bcoz she would be next in line wuth our taunts if she dared interfere with an "ithrem years kalyanam kazhinjittum mummy entha pappaye 'ithe' ennne vilikkunnathu" and so many more pokes....oh growing up was so fun...I could ramble on and on....but theres work to be done and deadlines to be long as i can have my sweet memories and comfortably earn my livelihood, life's a fine balancing act that I should never complain about.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Ullaasapoothirikal Kannilaninjavale...

L to R: kannan(outside the stage...looks like he is watchin out for rotten eggs to drop the curtain!), me(don't i look like a dork!), shan(pink shirt, green pants...haha!), kiran(background...enjoyin!), kevin(background...barman all the way!), arun(he looks rite out of a jayan movie), viswan(is that a tanktop shirt???, shinoj(oddly missing in the frame!). Courtesy and Gratitude: Shan for spending his valuable time digging this lousy(but this is the best we have!) snap out!

College wuz all about proving to others that the savages cud do anything under the sun. And Viswan, made it even more tougher for us. Hardly a day wud pass before he came up with a new scheme or adventure...that typical mischievious smile on his face and we were all shouting..."Oh No! for cover"...we dreaded his many whims and a nice afternoon that wud have been spent lazing away in the backbenches irritating teachers and distracting classmates, shooting bullets, playing cat-and-bull, etc had to be sacrificed for a day-out-in-the sun, raising funds(college panavu pirivus were so fun) and begging for support from teachers and classmates, etc. And that wuz when the Arts Festival came up and we were just happy taking part in essay writing, dumb charades, poetry writing, drawing, music, etc when Viswan dropped the bombshell...we had to dance too! Now, we knew he wuz crazy...except for Arun Hari and Anoop the rest of us including Viswan wud have made mammooty strut with pride!

The infuriating thing about Viswan wuz his vulnerablity and compulsiveness when he cant have things his way...and as usual we fell in line. Finally practise was scheduled for next day...
SCENE-I Viswan's house. The song..."Who Let The Dogs Out"...the choreographer, Viswan himself, the dancers...Arun, Shan, Anoop, Kevin, me and Viswan. Kiran and Shinoj didnt even bother to turn up...they must have been laughing at our plight huddled in some a/c bar while we sweated. Viswan showed us a few steps, told us to practise till perfection and when we tried to sync up it wuz a total failure. Kevin and I were miserable...we had two-left foots, Shan and Arun lazy as ever, only Anoop like a diligent pupil lend his ears to Viswan...who finally ended up in tears as we excavated his cricket bat and headed for the medicos ground. SCENE-II My Basement. To distance us from the medicos ground viswan prudently shifts practise here. After a few mins of practise, the villainous cricket bat comes out again and finally we bargain with Viswan that if he let us play a game we wud obey him henceforth. After frantic calls to get Anoop, viswan despondently breaks the news that Anoop fled to mangalore seeing our performace yesterday and for fear of rotten eggs. After the game when we start practise in earnest, Kiran and Shinoj barge in and they ruin everything poking fun at our clumsy steps and mocking our "master". After half an hour of this parody, Shan announces he is tired and need refreshment...again beerings!

SCENE-III The Footloozers - By now Viswan had Arun on his side, and realizing his inability to coach us,he hires The Footloosers, Trivandrum's champion professional dance troupe to coach us. We stared open-mouthed at the steps they asked us to do... we hardly cud manage Viswans stupid moves...within a few minutes they realized our caliber...we wondered if they wud bolt as they huddled in serious thought at a corner...suddenly asked us if we would be interested in doing the 70's Ullasapoothiri song...we jumped at that idea as it wud be a demo-song and we wouldnt have to dance much. I sulked as Kevin and I were told our services werent required anymore...we were left with just 3 dancers now, Arun, Viswan and Shan and except for Arun, Viswan wuz so comic and Shan wuz so slow on the uptake we were sure to flop. But then we started thinking always...we had to make sure of pooling all our talents to make this work...we had come too far to give up...we created a setting of a bar, arun, shan and viswan wud be dancers with arun as the evergreen action-hero of malayalam filmdom, the late Jayan, Kiran and Shinoj were made two smugglers, Kevin wud play a barman serving drinks and I wud do a singer and lip-sync over the mic.

It wuz meant to be comic all the way and we had to win the crowd...we rented 70's garishly colored, multi-pocketed tight shirts, bell bottoms and huge belts, we collected huge-rimmed sun-glasses from the 80's, we redid our hairstyles and got wigs for huge moustaches and sideburns. When the curtain opens, kevin stand behind the bar, as the singer...I would enter the stage when the music started with a guitar, dancing in a wild-70's disco way. I couldnt do it the way they wanted me to but everyone agreed the comic-effect of wht i tried to do wuz great. Then the dancers wud come in, followed by the smugglers, who were told to improvise on the stage, fake having a few drinks, converse briefly, exchange briefcases and at the end our Jayan(Arun) wud shoot them down with two pistols he stuck into his already tight pants!!

And so the big day arrived. The moment the music started, the cheering began thankfully, our adrenalin raced, I made my wild entry into the stage, our dancers were charged...Arun, a superb dancer and great mimic had perfected Jayan's mannerisms to impossibly sublime heights, Viswan and Shan finally got their steps and synced up well on stage though Shan wuz found jumping up and down in agony after the dance as Viswan accidentally kicked him while dancing, our smugglers and barman were perfect, we had won the crowd and they danced and sung with us all the way. Not a single rotten egg or tomato came our way, and at the end of the dance, our classmates, seniors, juniors and the abvp guys who hated our very sight came over to congratulate us. We did have a shock though...a bottle placed on the bar that we planned to celebrate with after the dance and which the barman wuz supposed to only fake in pouring to our smugglers, wuz served out by our "kannilunni" kevin to an overjoyed kiran and shinoj...but it didnt matter anymore as we were still taking in the euphoria of the moment. For one person, however it didnt last long...the Footloozers where hot on Viswans heels to settle their choreography dues for almost a month giving him a hard time...Viswan vowed never to crusade for a cause henceforth...and we heaved a sigh of relief. Well almost, because a month later he had started planning for Dishaa, our inter-collegiate technical fest, which countless batches of seniors broke their backs trying to organize!!!

P.S - I have suddenly started to feel like an old man...all the ribs abt silver jubilees and quarter centuries seems to have gotten to me...i think this post shud serve to remind me of a carefree jabban-of-a-long-time-back and his fun-loving comrade-in-arms who lived life to the fullest...whenever the boring, predictable side of Mr.Kattakayam threatens to engulf me.

Friday, September 23, 2005

25 Years, 25 Blessings...

Sep 23, 1980 - My parents bring me into this world...i have given them such tough times over the years I have at times wondered whether having kids especially boys is worth all the trouble.

May 6, 1983 - The only person who to this day has shared in all my happiness and sorrows comes along...I feel the time running out on what has been a long journey of comic sibling rivalry, acrimonious fights, and of being each others confidante, best friend, philosopher and guide...I wonder how I'll cope when she leaves.

May, 1984 - I walk into the hallowed campus of loyola not knowing even for a second the ways it wud mould my life later on. An article The Wall Comes Tumbling Down written by my classmate Krishnachandran, says it all...from the viewpoint of a senior of ours at school by two years, but who passed out with us, a python, truely signifies the impact the great institution will forever have on me...

May, 1990 - My first academic success...i manage a first class...for the first time I brought my report card home without my knees shivering.

Aug, 1992 - The caning i'll never forget for a lifetime...eager to watch the sunday evening film, "Mimics Parade" on doordarshan...i rush home too impatient to wait for my dad to pick me up after tuition as he flogged almost a 50 times till my grandpa stood between us and bailed me out...i guess i'll realize how much pops worried that day about my missing, only when i have a kid.

May, 1993 - I qualify for the icse section in, i know definitely had a hand in getting me thru as except for english and history i fared poorly in everything else.

Oct, 1993 - I am vice-captain of the school mini-basketball team and selected to the trivandrum district mom refuses to let me go for the camp as i wuz on the verge of flunking my hindsight i think she decided wisely as always, but i gave up the dear sport for almost 3 years in disappointment.

Sep, 1994 - My first and last article to appear on print, got published in The Loyolite, our school magazine. It wuz titled Efficiency, India's Deficiency. Again somewhere down the line I lost the confidence to write for a long long time.

Oct 14, 1994 - Experienced the first death in my maternal grandfather who doted on me more than all his other perakuttis. Sadly the night b4 he wuz felled by a stroke and fell into a coma for 10 days, we quarelled and i have ever since lived to regret that act and with it a realization of never ever leaving an apology, thanks or expressing my affection or appreciation left unsaid for another day. To this day, I believe Appachan and Fr.Pulickal have been steadfast guardian angels, watching over me...every step of the way.

May, 1995 - I am selected best camper at camp india, a summer camp for kids. unfortunately the confidence from that never rubbed off on me in school amidst my super-talented classmates.

Jun, 1996 - In a class of 44, 43 of us pass our 10th with distinction equalling a long-standing school marked the turnaround in my life...never again in life did I worry or cry about academics.

Oct, 1996 - I head out for an iit contact class in cochin with thomman, muthu and ponnan. those were the days these 3 guys were the top rogues in class and i wuz the puny, silent introvert but they graciously took me along. when i returned it wuz like i picked up some of thommans daredevilry and all his high spirits, a slice of muthu's tongue and ponnan and i were deskmates for the rest of school life. Most of what i am today happened in those 3 days spent with these guys and since then i have forever looked up to life, never ever had to look back in regret, look down in shame or look on in silence.

Jun, 1998 - Despite my teachers hounding me and fearing for the worst, i surprise them all with a distinction for isc. the boy who scraped into loyola by the skin of his teeth with a provisional 89th seat in ukg walked out with his head held high and a 16th rank in the 12th. my dad told me that day, except for him everyone else including my mom thought i wud end up a pazham...for me, coming from him that wuz the sweetest praise i ever got.

Sep, 1998 - I write my SAT and get admission into Johns Hopkins and Kansas State Univ but unexpectedly clear my Kerala Entrance and choose home and a Comp Engg seat in SCT over a Mech Engg seat in CET where almost 20 of my ex-classmates had joined. That vacation we all travelled abroad for the first time, to the US and Italy...all I thought the USA wud be over the years swelled up into a great disappointment but somehow I knew I was fated to come back. Italy will stay in mind forever...seeing the saintly Pope John Paul at close quarters and the divine touch of Michelangelo's paintbrush in the Sistine Chapel.

Feb, 1999 - Barely a week after learning to drive an 800, we headed for my cousin's wedding at Kottayam on our uncle's Tata Estate chaffeured by his driver. My parents left for Velankanni, and ammachi, jish and me headed back to tvm but the driver stopped at one of our relatives' bar for a free booze, gets too much to drink and almost got us into two accidents. By then at my wits end and my sis crying about her exam next day and in pouring rain and a bleak night I take over the wheels of the Estate, unsure of the roads to take, abt controlling the huge car and my sheer inexperience, with ammachi praying calmly and not even closing her eyes even for a keep me company, and with a lot of "help" from the driver totally fit and ranting and raving...nobody cud believe the tale we had to tell back home but since that day, for everyone it wuz almost like i cud do no wrong!

Mar, 1999 - Just a month after chastising the driver I take up my first beer and i have never felt more of a hypocrite than at that moment! The 8 guys i identified to let into my heart as friends soon became like brothers to me. I coined the name of our gang, Savages from the first phonetic of each of our names and soon to everyone, classmates, teachers and collegemates we were known under that identity. We shared so much together and achieved so much with our confidence and zest for life was at its zenith in those years.

Nov, 2000 - Every day in college wud have been worth to mark down here as a milestone but for a few seconds i achieved sheer nirvana...on the cricketing field. We were playing the best team in college and I came in at 0/3 and the first three balls i faced wud forever remain etched in memory. I straight-drove the first ball thru the on-side, and the next, again a straight drive thru the off-side and now with men at mid-off and mid-on I again hit a much straighter one beating both these fielders. The sound of my pals lustily cheering me and the opposition clapping sounded so sweet, for a second i felt like sachin...i saw the ball early, my front foot moved in line with the ball, my bat came down with a flourish and the ball hit the sweet spot, my follow-thru and back foot movement wuz wuz unforgettable. But then came the nasty bouncer and I fended it away clumsily to slips and walked back dejected to the same guys who cheered a second earlier, now cursing me under their breath for giving away a fine start. Oh! how I wish nowadays I got a second chance that day.

Oct, 2001 - The time to plan ahead after 3 years of fun and frolic arrived, I distanced myself from friends which made them sad, picked up my Barrons and did a wordlist a day in bus to college and another one on the way back, besides finally paying attention in classes...everyone thought I had gone nuts or wuz tryin to show off...those 45 days were the only time in life I wuz systematic and methodical and the GRE ended up too tame a beast to kill. I still dont know why i never tried to bell the CAT, another road not taken...

Feb, 2002 - The only regret I wuz about to take out of college was my inability to imitate my dad in becoming a student leader. But this incident changed all that...and justified my decision to enjoy those years rather than spend in hatred, colluding and scheming against a bunch of losers. Ever since, I developed a deep distaste for the mallu tendency to politicise issues for scoring brownie points.

Mar, 2002 - I realized the golden years that began in my eleventh all the way thru the eighth sem were well past a tearful farewell to college and classmates who were by then more like brothers and sisters to me.

June, 2002 - Within a months time, trivandrum suddenly became an empty place with most of my school and college mates leaving, made some blunders...I fled India...and instead of seething optimism arrived a dejected, weary soul in america to make my "riches".

Aug, 2002 - MS started, I realized for a change I had to do some things I wasnt used to...studying and that too countless back-to-back nightouts, work for a living and with the little money i made then, having to budget for rent, food, clothes and a little fun...those were the days of living precariously from paycheck to motivation levels have been so low since then...dunno what gives me the strength to plow ahead, but made a few good friends who to this day...I believe would walk an extra mile to bail me out of any difficulty i fell into.

May, 2004 - The proudest moment of my academic life...recieving the Masters' diploma...with my parents brimming with tears of joy and clapping wildly. Two years of toil, sweat and hunger wuz rewarded, but my carefree spirit and working life have forever since found it hard to co-exist.

Oct, 2004 - No job, no money, no friends, piling debt, all hope lost...i sign up with blogger and 40-odd posts later...thru all i have written I have relived my entire life, expounded a lot of my viewpoints on society and politics, made some friends whose writings I could closely relate with...truely another important milestone in life.

May, 2005 - No job for 2 months,then a job, fired in 7 days, and then a dream job in a week's all happened in one my first proper full paycheck after a year of working and 3 failures.

Last 4 months I have made more money than I ever dreamt of, but I am loosing my soul...I havent found the gratification I expected...the ways of my mind are beyond my own comprehension. So many miracles have happened in my life...HIS gifts have largely gone unthanked for...i have always been like a child who gets bored with a new toy after a few days...thats all the soul-searching i wanna do for now. More than 3 years of shani gets over on sep 27th and my shukran starts according to Pops, I wonder what crazy things will happen now...I am weary at looking to the future, thats why the past seemed more apt to write about on this day.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Malluz Day Out!!!

Another unforgettable Onam has gone by. I am still reeling from its hangover and ksheenam...but i knew if this post made it out today it wud inspire me to make the next one even more grand. What made this one special and unforgettable for a long long time to come wuz how it made me feel so proud of our culture and how the homeland binds together such a lively set of youngsters into good friends. A week back our Onam looked set to end in mediocrity and marred by bad planning. Except for watching Pandipada at the indian theater on friday nite and a secret mini-potluck lunch for about 10 of us leaving a lot of our mallu pals itself out...nothing looked like materialising. But then tell me a mallu guy who can keep a secret...each of us unwitingly called up our other buds and word spread and everyone promised to cook something or the other! By friday night there were 25 mallus and 10 others we had to serve lunch too...the worst part wuz we were all amateur cooks in whose hands our great harvest festival and one of the greatest cuisines in the world wuz about to suffer a great humiliation.

Saturday morning began at a feverish pace. Sadly none of us planned to wear our mundu's coz of an uncle who got a ticket a few days back for indecent exposure when he went shopping after an onam celebration! We still didnt have vazhayila(banana leaves)...until my sis eavesdropping as always on me...let it out casually that she saw vazhayilas and the Food4Less where she went shopping yesterday...she saved my skin yet again as i had declared in imprudent bravado that i wud get the vazhayila without knowing from where. Rajay cooked sambhar, Giby made pulisseri, mathew and subhash cooked the toughest of the lot - aviyal, rohit made ari paayasam, abraham pappadam, philip cabbage thorran, abhiram parippu curry, reji made rice, sujith cooked pachadi and the other sujith's wife simi and my sis made two versions of payar thorran. I had volunteered to make my "special" chicken fry(dont ask me why chicken...the guys here have become such carnivores...that they cant sacrifice it for even a day...moreover that wuz the only thing i wuz confident of making after close to 9 months of inactivity on the cooking front!!).

Well this is the closest i will ever get to a cooking here's how i make my chicken...take it off the freezer...microwave it for 5 mins to thaw it...then apply a paste of tumeric, ginger and garlic to make it loose its smell...leave it out for a few more mins...then microwave it again for 5 mins(thats basically to cut down on time i need to cook it!)...then i pour in a few spoons of chilli powder and a few smaller spoons of coriander powder("sorry sorry...readymade chicken masala is for gals"...i told my astonished sis...who wuz already crying abt the hours of relief work it wud take to get her kitchen back into shape...the poor thing wuz already eating her words for remarking my chicken wud end up like mohanlal's in boeing boeing!), by then my 5 huge onions were being sauted, into which i pour in some more ginger and garlic, and after that my chicken cut into small peices goes...initially it will look like i am goin to make a curry as all this useless water starts coming out from my chicken...the gameplan then is to get it to evaporate...meanwhile i throw in 5 sliced tomatoes(more for the color!), curry leaves, salt, cilantro leaves and lime drops) and after 2 hours of burning my fingers, desperately stirring my chicken, scraping my frying pans bottoms and cursing the curry for not drying up its all ready to eat.

The feeling you get on seeing the vaazhayila's set and each of the side dishes neatly stacked on them is an out-of-the-world one...and with most of the people who i could call friends in LA also around me I knew this wuz the onam i'd cherish the most in life. My sis remarked that I wudnt have survived so long in america if it wuz not for all these nice mallu guys at USC. My mind ran back a year...when I wuz so lonely and depressed and had to beg my kashmiri roomate to take me to the kerala restaurant in san diego to have my onasadhya and his words of praise and thanks for giving him a feel of kerala cuisine. I havent hogged so much in ages...our boys had reserved their best for the most important occasion of all...we served rice in three rounds like at a hindu wedding...with the parippu curry poured in the first, sambhar in the second round and pulisseri in the third and to round it off a most delicious paayasam too! I wonder where I'll be next year...wonder where most of these guys still in school will be working...but so long as I am here...I know I will press these guys to make every Onam henceforth the most memorable event of the year...maybe we'll have an athapoo and a few skits too! Some of us stayed back to round off the night with scotch...listening to folk songs from films and albums...even dancing to a few of them...then settled down and talked fondly for over an hour of the day's happenings and went to sleep wherever we cud find space...worrying if the guy sprawled next to us wud unleash his "sword" in the middle of the night!

Much Belated Happy Onam to all!