Friday, September 08, 2006

A Man in the House!!!

The servant returned from her 5 day onam vacation. Both of us blew a big sigh of relief...i was supposed to babysit my ammachi with dad and mom also away. For 2 weeks tension and worry was wrought on ammachi's face, as she despaired over the holocaust awaiting her under my charge...all my efforts to put her at ease hadnt really worked. Until a few years back, she would single-handedly marshall the house, but old-age had caught up...she needed help, yearned for more company and had sadly yet happily and uncomplainingly accepted the reality that her grandkids had grown up and couldnt be around, that her children had begun to also miss their kids, somewhere along the way I am sure she began to feel like excess baggage. Luckily my uncles, aunt, cousins, my parents and sis had resolved someone or the other would spent seperate months of their crowded year with her. Well, that is everyone, except for me...gave her their quality time. Sadly, Trivandrum for me, is also about my friends, cinemas, cable tv, reading and wandering the city...i always get scolded for not doing enough at home.

So ammachi and I began our few days, virtually keeping an eye on each other. She wouldnt trust me with the stove, would always keep checking to see if I had left taps running, had latched the door and locked the gate...sometimes, it was comical, other times irritating. "Ammachi, njan pazhaya aalalla, i have changed", i tried to reassure her, well i failed. Early Morning 7am. My dad had reminded me she needs a bed-tea to warm her frail body. Ofcourse I was blissfully sleeping. She comes over to my bed and softly taps me, "Moneh". "Ayyo chaaya idande", I wake up with such a wild start which scares her. Breakfast. I take the dosamaavu out, of the 8 dosas i made only 5 turned out okay. For one I forgot to apply oil on the kallu, another i tried to flip before it was ready and a third fell to the floor from the chattukam. Of the 5 right ones, 3 had got a lil too disaster! I turned around to see a smile on my grandmoms face, and announced, "naalethotte kaappikke bread, jam and butter"! Lunch. The servant had thankfully cooked 4-days lunch, dinner and left marinated fish in the freezer. Only rice had to be cooked. I didnt remember how many whistles were needed...called up a friend and asked him to consult his wife. I had idled over doing the dishes, and ants had crept up all over the sink...dang, so this is the life of a woman, i turned towards ammachi and asked all dazed, "ammachi jeevithathil ethra dosa chuttittunde, ethra aalukale pottiyuttunde?".

Things really got bad. I misplaced the gate lock and she wouldnt go to sleep until i found it. But I tricked her, found a small lock and got the job done for now...thankfully she wouldnt step out onto the yard at night to inspect . Next morning she found out I had forgotten to keep the aviyal back in the fridge. In the evening she discovered I had forgotten to turn off the Goodknight from last night...i didnt tell her it had been that way for 2 days now! The neighbour had forgotten to turn off an outside lamp facing ammachis room and by afternoon, this was disturbing her...she called over to the aunty but noone could hear her. Finally, she asked me to walk over and tell them...i was cosily ensconsed on the sofa watching something crappily interesting and no way was i going now! She finds a neighbour passing by and asks him to carry the message. Damn, my lazy self! In the evening a few friends came over, they wanted to hit the terrace as the view would be good at sunset. I wondered what to do...until i hit upon an idea. I showed ammachi the locator button on the cordless and asked her to press that to summon me anytime she wanted, i took the handset along and trooped upstairs. A little later the calling bell rang, a visitor must be at the door, i came down, ammachi was frantically searching all over the fone for the button i had shown earlier, but though she was exceptionally intelligent, her memory had faded. Again I feel rotten. Onam, was playing out in the city. I got a boy to sit with her, while i slipped away with Shan for a few hours to see the city and its illuminations, besides guzzling a beer. I got back only at 10, an hour past her sleeping hour...and there she was waiting anxiously for me. I felt an anger rising in me, but that dissipated seeing the happy relief on her face.

"Innokke Onam, TVyude mumbil theerum"...she doesnt talk much, but today she was chattering away, while along i had one eye and one ear on the screen...i was setting records in callousness. "Ammachi samsaarikke, inne muzhuvanum namukke ellaavare kurichum kushimbu paranjirikkaam". So i egged her on to gossip and she complained how mom didnt have enough patience for her, how the servant though a good lady would spent more time chatting with neighbours than her and tell her to massage her feet by herself, and how only pappa, her son-in-law and jancy, our kid cousin had adapted to her helplessness. Anyways the servant is back. The house still stands and ammachi told me she expected much worser things. For the last one week, i got calls from my two other ammachis, one is actually my grand-aunt, asking why I never call and when I'll visit. I turned on the charm, said I was just about to call when they did, assured them I am coming right away, but to little effect. Oh Jibs...tera jadoo chal gaya! All of them were like kids now...charm doesnt work with them anymore but sincerity would...i realize that becoming a man also means watching out constantly for those who got me here. Will I?...and thats the big question.

My Two Sweethearts

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Oru Vattam Koodi Pazhaya Vidyalaya Padimuttathethuvaan Moham...

Today i sneaked into Loyola...some of my classmates are in town besides the guys who work and live in tvm...thought of inviting them along for a sec...felt guilty but i wanted some has been three long years, it maybe years before i come here again...saturday, onam vacation...not a soul in was just me and my alma mater. Deserted look, is the word i am tempted to use, but a thousand memories, hundreds of shiny young faces, a dozen inspirational teachers, all seem so alive and buzzing about, around me. I remembered how troubled, insignificant and mediocre i felt when i walked out of school in 1998...even then i knew i made a wrong choice with engineering, but I didnt know much about life, the world outside tvm, big words like fate and destiny, i was a simple kid without any pretentions, ambitions or big dreams. Today I am back here, again feeling troubled, insignificant and mediocre...under the gulmohar's shade, a soothing gentle breeze, i relaxed, i started dreaming, of good days, of hardships that i would tide with a smile, of all the places on earth i would let loose my carefree spirit.

A Week Back...
The three strapping youngsters with a smile on their faces asked me,
"Chetan Loyolayil padichathalle...njangale ormayondo".
I really felt happy...I knew I should blog on my school soon.
Only a few minutes back, the school-bus had passed me, and as always I turned towards it part in reverence, part in the hope of some junior, teacher or the conductor recognizing luck, i was way too history...i thought.
"Ningal ethe batchileya".(I faintly remembered one of the boys...he was one of the little boys who would hold seats for us in the school bus)
"ISC2006. We just got into engineering this year".
"ISC98. I cant believe you guys remember me. When I came out y'all were just in the forth"!
We talked for a few minutes. They were eager to know about how life treats them after school...I couldnt give them the hard part...told them to enjoy the next few years to the fullest.

As they walked away I smiled...they were yet to realize the magic 12 years of studying in Loyola would people would admire them, how they would begin to believe anything was possible under the sun, how the boys they studied with in school with would continue to be their best friends and would all grow into fine young men. This post is just a celebration...its my way of the school, to the teachers and most importantly to my a space of a fortnight two of the boys are getting married, a third engaged and a forth broke the big news of him about to become a dad. This is a disjointed post...just some old memories, some hilarious incidents and a few personal recollections all thrown in.

This one evening, i overheard Pops telling this cool priest who teaches at the Loyola College, how studying in Loyola made a big difference in my life. Then i heard this wonderful story the achan, who i hope becomes the principal of the school some day, had to tell.
Night Time. Heavy Rain. Frantic knocking at the jesuit residence. An achan goes out to see who it is. A young couple totally drenched.
The guy desperately, "Acho, am an ex-loyolite. Am goin abroad tomorrow. Just wanted to show my wife, my school. Would you have an umbrella?".
The priest stands in disbelief for a second. But the next request floors him...
"Acho, I need a torch too..."
The poor dude was sticking to a long-standing tradition of showing wives the school...this was the place that made us men, endowed us with ethics and liberal attitudes, this was where we learnt to play hard yet fair, work hard yet be carefree, this was where we became rogues, yet imbibed lessons in chivalry and humanity. I can see Shenoi, captain of the basketball team, star-singer, center-forward of the football team, heartthrob to many a tvm gal, hero to many a loyola junior and Sajeev, top-ranker of the class, captain of the school cricket team, unfailing goalkeeper of the football team and Annan to all of us, who are marrying in this Onam season bringing their women here, recounting to them unbelievable exploits, sharing a part of the history that made them the men who appealed to the gals in the first place.

I remember this one evening at Humayun's Tomb in Delhi. My pal tells me, "Dey, lets look at it the way Pulickal would have done, in history class"
"Do you see the perfect symmetry in not just the monument but the surrounding lawns, walls and outlying buildings on either side."
"Do you see the some of the marble tiles are patchworks, done at a later time".
"Did you know, Dara Shikoh, heir to Shah Jahan, was beheaded here by Aurangzeb and this was Bahadur Shah Zafar's last stand during the 1857 revolt".
"Do you notice the steps up to the monument cant be seen from anywhere...on the raised platform...the builders must have thought it hindered the beauty".
"You know what...for this kind of crappy analysis Puli wud have given us a zero"!
We laughed heartily...remembered the old man, and what he meant to us, how he could brutally make fun of us and yet we never felt any ill-will, how he would set the most difficult question paper, how he would be so stingy in giving us marks and fail most of the class, and as if to rub salt on our wounds, would publish our blunders in the school notice board for seniors and juniors alike to mock us...we still loved him, he was our hero, still is and forever will be. We remembered how Paili wrote in Pulickals history paper, "Rani Laxmibai had no natural hair"...instead of "male natural heir" and how the whole class, and from the notice board, the whole school had a nice jolly laugh about it!

A few summers back we decided to have a reunion at school. Two of us trooped into our vice-principal's office. The surprised man was counting a huge wad of currency and my pal snatched it from him and said,
"Achanmaarke enthina kaashe...fees sherikkum kootiyalle".
I was smiling at all this when the poor priest turned to me and pleaded,
"Eda Kattakayam, avanodathinge tharaan para".
I turned to my bud and joked, "Aliya, u shud demand a Refund. Eitherways, u have turned out rotten after 13 years here and still cant speak proper English." (The Refund, a play abt a rogue who goes back to his school and asks for all the money he paid as fees back).
We three broke out into laughter. We had never heard of a Loyolite who got messed up...
Maybe I should take heart from the above...

A friend once asked me,
"Amongst all of us here, why is it that Pappanabhan and you are going back to India?"
I shot back, "Ask your parents why they didnt send you to Loyola".
"They tried, but..."
"Tough Luck, man". While saying that, I couldnt suppress a condescending smile then.
"You snotty bastard. There's one thing you didnt learn to talk your way into a gals heart".
"Thats okay. There's always arranged marriage for losers like me!".
We both laughed...

I arose from the reverie i had slipped into, and headed for my car. A school is all about high spirits, the longing to grow up and become an adult, and "giving your best till the day is done"...i had soaked for a couple of hours in all what my alma mater gifted a few weeks i will become a bird, i will soar, all i need is courage and perseverance, to go the distance, its a promise to be kept. The school will be watching, waiting for me...

Friday, September 01, 2006

Some Onam Movies, A Little Nostalgia, An Odd Thought...

Once upon a time, there was a certain excitement, which drove us, crazed college boys to the theatres...we loved the thrill of bunking class, having a quick beer, pushing and shoving other ruffians like us out of the way to the front of the ticket couter, cheering for our favorite actors, and at the end coming out satisfied at having "studied" another day in college, outside the rusted gates! These days cars have replaced bikes and buses as our means of transport, a hot tea /coffee is preferred to a visit to the bar, we huff and puff our way to the same old theatres, scowling at the rogues who wont stay in line while taking tickets, passing harsh stares to guys who whistle and etc, etc, etc. I guess we come here nowadays for the love of movies, for finding something of the old days in the new. Its funny, my approach to movies has changed, though only subtlely, i still go there deciding i am here for timepass and i wont come out irritated, however horrible the movie is...but nowadays i try to observe the screenplay, the camera panning in and out from the actors faces and visualizing how the script has translated to celluloid...oops wonder if that made sense!!

Keerthichakra didnt disappoint. An average though elegantly made film(discounting mohanlal's tummy) without all the masala that ruins war movies. What we call average movies in kerala these days invariably becomes moneyspinners...that better than anything else signifies the depths to which we have plunged. Mohanlal's dialogues have a punch that gives you goosebumps, Jeeva proves to be a very lively actor, the melodious songs come alive in beautiful picturisations of kashmir and kerala, the movie races to the interval but thereafter the director, Major Ravi loses his grip on the script for a while, before turning on the intensity with a violent climax.

Moonamathoral - Its a pity keralites have turned their backs on a very talented director who dares to be different. V.K.Prakash who debuted with that brilliant movie, Punaradhivasam gets the cold shoulder again. Malayalam cinema's first complete digital movie, stands out for awesome technical perfection, the camera, editing and sound design at par with the best, the rest of India can offer...but as usual our superstar crazy people stayed away. A horror movie, the first half kept us on tenterhooks, i tried to figure out all along which hollywood movie was being adapted here, but failed...the story seemed original though i am still not sure. What lets the movie down, are the two songs carelessly placed in the 2nd half that kills the suspense and damages the script beyond repair!

Classmates - If Vadakkumnathan was a great movie-going experience in May, this movie by Lal Jose, is my favorite this Onam by miles and miles. It is a must watch for all you people who studied in the tension-ridden atmosphere of Kerala's colleges and student politics and have suffered and enjoyed from it, if you have written loveletters to your sweethearts or to help out your friends, if you have called your best friends "aliya" and last-bit-not-the-least been part of college intrigues. It is also a must-watch for all you people who are looking for a well-crafted film with a riveting climax, with a script which irradiates freshness and stands out different from the cliched campus movies of our age. If Prithviraj isnt accepted as a good actor by malayalis even after this movie, I give up on him...he has given a superlative performances as a fiery student leader. The supporting cast of Indrajith whose comic timing is a revelation, Sunil who plays a crucial role in the film, Jayasurya in a surprisingly subdued comic avatar besides Kavya Madhavan and a whole lot of other actors, wonderfully cast for their bit roles...this movie sure is going to be the big hit this Onam. Just like me, I was sure Shan and Anoop must have been flooded by memories of our eventful college life, watching this movie...i had to drag them out of their homes to watch this one, but the grateful look on their faces when we came out of the marquee, was worth the nagging!

I dont even think Mammootty's Bhargavacharitam, Lal's Mahasamudram, Dileep's Don and Suresh Gopi's Pathaka deserve to find mention here...malayalam cinema's curse today are directors, scriptwriters and actors who are past their creative best but yet refuse to yield ground to a new generation, those who steal from others like Sreenivasan does in Bhargavacharitham, or repackage their old films like Shaji Kailas seems to have done in Don(seeing the trailer reminded me of Aaraam Thampuraan).

To wind up this post on movies, i picked up what i thought is an integral part of the indian male psyche while watching kabhi alvida...I was amused at how viciously people have badmouthed the movie coz i thought it was a decent it i found a karan johar having a keen insight into human emotions, his only fault lay in taking up an issue still taboo to most indians and trying to present it in the by-now-beaten-to-death romantic formula that DDLJ introduced in India. The friends I went to watch it with, came out with ghastly faces, telling others this was a movie about adultery(i certainly felt johar deserved more sensitivity than being called an adultery-panderer), they couldnt understand how people could cheat in their relationships...i asked them, dont you think this can happen to you too, dont you think even your marriages can fail? What i said must have shocked them...most Indian men, seem to think they they are infallible in life...if something unfortunate like this happens in their lives god forbid, i wondered how unprepared these people are for countering that situation and how wrongly they will analyze their position. Most chillingly, I realized I wasnt too different from the people above, until a couple of years back...well enough of my crappy hypothesis...wish all you readers a Happy Onam!!