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...