Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A Comic Strip

Of all the places were the muse can strike! This one happened in a classroom in Delhi during my Civil Service coaching. The hero of this cartoon was one of the sweetest boys i had met, totally uncorrupted by the ways of the world, preparing for the UPSC because it was his dad's big dream to see him as an IPS officer. I had this habit of drawing cartoon and mythical characters in school on the last pages of my notebook and was pleasantly surprised to find this talent revisiting 10 years later! Had totally forgotten about this...if not for my sister who miraculously discovered this one scribbled inside one of my notebooks.

P.S - Please open the image in another window. For some reason its all blurred.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

In God, We Trust...

Anyways this one is about our family praying at night. Not all of the following account is a routine, though a lot of it is. I have just tossed in a lot of the funny moments that came to mind. Anyways life has taken us kids out of our home...but memories linger. This one is dedicated to my parents and grandparents who tried their best to give us a Christian upbringing and a horrible reminder of what the future that lies in store for us with our kids.

Night- 7:30-8:00pm
Mom: We should pray first.
Us: No! We should eat first.
Ammachi: But that is not how others do it. Will you people even pray after i am gone???

Night 8:30pm
Mom: "Pillere, praarthikkaan vaa"(Kids come to pray)
Sis: "Chach, come"!
Me: "Wait a minute!"(believe me, my version of a minute is a long long time!)
Pops: "I have one more short fone call to make."(his version of a short call is a still longer one.)
Ammachi(already seated, waiting impatiently, on the verge of sleeping, and looking at my mom accusingly): "Gracykutty...ithonnum nallathinalla"(All this is not for good).

Night 9:00pm. Finally the actors arrive. Everyone has a pre-reserved position. Ammachi on a chair by the dining table. Pops on the steps leading upstairs. Mom by the sofa-side. Sis seated against the TV stand and me resting against the wall. We are all set to begin.

The Holy Bible is taken up by mom. She passes it to me. I push it back to her. She passes it to sis. She pushes it away too initially before relenting and more often than not thrusts it into my lap and then another reverse tug-o-war begins.
Sis: "I read yesterday. Today its your turn."
Me: "I read three days at a stretch last week."
Finally a commanding voice from behind arises,
Pops: "Mathi! Da nee vaayikke" (That's enough!)
I close my eyes and randomly open a page...still scowling. Dang...that went to the Old Testement. So I try again. This time it is one of the Psalms. Again not my favorite. Moreover sis has beaten that to death through the years...cant really understand the female fascination with the Psalms. Then Finally.
Me: "Lukosinte Suvishesham. Adhyayam Pathinanju, Pathu Muthal Pathinanju Vareyulla Vaakyangal."(A reading from the Gospel of St.Luke. Chapter 15. Verses 10-15.)
Oh-ho! This is trouble. It is about the prodigal son. I gloss over that, and start with another section.
The reading is done. I turn a triumphant glance at my sis. Didnt mess my pronounciation of the malayalam unlike her. This is what she once read out..."Yeshu peedippicha prarthana"(The prayer Jesus tortured). The actual line was "Yeshu Padippicha Prarthana"(The prayer Jesus taught, Mathew 5:9). A look of "Ninne njan adutha vattom edutholam" is all i get back.

Everyone breaks out into a song. Its a lovely one. "Nithyasahaaya Naathe..." But the beginning is a problem. All of us suck at singing. So mom starts out. It is funny to hear her start diffidently, with ears sharpened waiting for us to join in the crooning. Usually ammachi piches in and gives her support and then the rest three of us open up. One night sis and i decided on a small prank, to not parttake in the singing and watch how far she can go on. Mom lost her confidence and turned back and gives the kind of look of having been utterly back-stabbed!

The next items in the itenerary. Our Father in Heaven, followed by Hail Mary, then the I Believe prayer, then the I Confess prayer, then the Hail Holy Queen prayer, then The Act of Contrition, and then another song...Walking with the Lord. All these are said in English and were a byproduct of the convent education and the jesuit schooling sis and i got. All the prayers are said at break-neck speed and mom tries to join us and then gives up midway panting. These days we have given up on the english prayers. It is all in malayalam. I think i must have forgotten all the above ones by now.

Now mom, ammachi and sis takes over. The rites begin in malayalam.
Chorus: "Swargasthanaaya Njangalude Pithaave, Ninte Naamam Poojitham Aakaname". (Our Father in Heaven, Holy be thy name)
Me: "Ninte Udarathin Phalamaaya Easo" (Blessed be the fruit of thy womb)
Everyone turns around. Cold Stares. I know what that look means. I messed up again. After the first line of Our Father I had jumped straight to the second line of Hail Mary. I raise my hands to conciliate everyone and decides to sit quietly. My sis opens her mouth and flashes her tongue at me. If it wasnt prayer time...i would have pulled it out.

All the while there is one man sitting behind who softly hums quite-inaudible somethings which none of us could really make out. That was Pops' way of praying. For me the interest in catching him in the act was heightened by my doubts that he was a communist at heart. After all Marx was the founding father of his bread-earner, Sociology and every sociologist i knew seemed to be a commie at heart. All his friends in the University were die-hard leftists, he rarely went to church in the 80's, and i suspect only once in the 70's...to marry my mom!!! Our library had scores of books on Marx, Engels, Lenin, et al. Even today without me asking, he will walk up and recount all the times of the week he visits a church or atleast a kurishadi...he must be hoping it makes an impact on me...but first impressions linger.

My mom follows the Syro-Malankara rite which is full of arcane prayers, syriani chants, and a tendency to neetufy the last syllable. You find it in the Orthodox Church too. Now comes my favorite...That is one part i understand...because its slow...and its a chance to playfully test my lung power. Everyone is taken aback with my new-found zest which dies with the passing of those lines.
Chorus:"Deyvameyyyy, nee Balavaaaaaaaaaanaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaakunnnnnnnnuuuuuuuuuuu."(God, you are so strong!!!)
Chorus:"Deyvameyyyy, nee Parishudhanaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaakunnnnnnnnuuuuuuuuuuu."(God, you are so sacred!!!) Wonder if god will do the same literal translation and laugh at the result!
I looked back all deflated. The fart had spolt my best lines. But sis couldnt stop laughing, mom joined in, and even ammachi who keeps a sombre face during prayers joined. It had to be pops, or so we always decided and ganged up against him. Usually he took it sportingly but sometimes a whiff of anger would fleet through his face and we would all hurriedly resume.

Then begins two prayers that mom adores, i suspect to be novennas, but she doesnt bother. I have a short easy one of 3 small paras which i have been saying for years yet cant memorize. Can never finish without help from mum and sis. And then sis begins hers, which is pretty long, citing proudly from memory. Suddenly the phone rings. Mom turns back and looks at dad. He rushes to replace the reciever and comes back. The prayer resumes. Suddenly the other phone rings and Pop is out of the block like a 100mt sprinter.
Mom(loosing her cool): "Ee veetile phonukal ellaam njan thalli pottikkum"(I will break all the darned phones in this house.)

And finally, its all over. A few moments of meditation to wind up is an unspoken rule in the household. I look around wondering why noone leaves...and suspecting it to be a case of inertia, I am up in a moment rushing upstairs, taking the cue Pops dashes for the fone and sis lunges for the TV remote. Our cousins had to give sthuthi(praise...done with palms pressed like in namaste) to the elders before leaving but we both are so informal with our parents that it seemed awkward.
Mom:"Ingane Praarthichitte oru kaaryavum illa."(There is no point praying like this!)
A solemn, gloomy looking ammachi sits staring at a puzzled, thoughtful looking mom wondering how in a span of 20 years her family which contributed 3 priests to the church, one her son, and the other two her nephews...had changed...or was it the times?

It was just a half-hour in the 24 hour days of our lives...nowadays looking back one of the constant memories of home that i treasure are the images of our awkward family-prayers. I wont be a boy again, I maynot be a practising christian ever again, but i will say two things for sure...prayers bring families closer and they sure can be fun too!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Finished reading M.Mukundan's masterpeice, Mayyazhi Puzhayude Theerangalil. Now what do I say...am i sad, am i disturbed or am i overwhelmed...didnt all the characters find salvation, though not the one they envisaged? Or am I scared of wasted youthfulness? Or am I on the right track? Time will tell...