Sunday, March 18, 2007

Summers, Bygone, Forever...

Thank you very much, Silverine, for this wonderful tag. I have been itching to do a tag for a long time...even thought of doing the tags i forewent, but tags have this perishable quality of having to be done fresh, in sync with all the blog-pals.

When does summer start for people in trivandrum...4 buses loaded with brats from Loyola School shouting "Happy, Holidays" at the top of their young lungs all along the ananthapuri veethikal until the last kid is offloaded!!!

The Ugly...

The terror of having to wait a month till mid-April to know if i passed my finals. I was a touch-and-go student all through school. There was always a family trip to Velankanni to pray i pass. The worst part was having a sister whose big worry was getting the first rank or not!!!

The Bad...

Unarguably the best library in town, the Loyola School Library didnt lend books to us during summer. Until the Eloor Lending Library opened we had to be content with the slim pickings at the Public Library and the British Library.

The Good...

1. Flatmates
We lived in a housing colony with almost two dozen children, both small kids, big kids and college kids...all regardless of age buzzing with potential energy ready to implode if not exploded. Almost all of us had working parents and we kids had a jungle, 2 tiny parks,a 100 metre straight stretch of private road at Pattom Junction as our backyard for playspace. So many games, cricket, football, kabaddi, even hockey, and when the gals too insisted on playing there was hide and seek, lock and key, seven-tiles, eripanthe, badminton, kite-flying, etc, etc! We wouldnt come home even at night, and parents eager to catch atleast a lone glimpse of us for the day, had to venture out, chase us and herd us back into our we tearfully bid farewell to each other, like lambs to a slaughter-house.

2. Native Places -
Kattanam and Arakulam, my two lost native of the things i am most thankful to my parents are despite all our entreaties, forcing us to go there and live...the flavour of village life i got there, will i ever get to taste again...only time can tell. My sister always tells me, i have never written a post to outdo this popped out somehow from my sub-conscious, i reminescent fondly of as my days as a fresh blogger, with no dearth of topics to write on, while nowadays i increasingly feel jaded, struggling to strike new ground with each post...and i concede i will never ever be able to write anything better. I have so much more to write on those places, had a selfish intent not to list some of the stuff we did there, as it is fodder for another post.

At Kattanam
- walking thru the paadam, looking proudly at my appachan toiling daily, but glad that my mom did good and bailed out
- earnestly looking all day at the lone village road which ended at our house for some guest.
- kanji in the afternoon made by ammachi, sitting alongside the farmhands, making sense of their chatter, a plaavila in hand magnifying the taste a million times over
- Huddle around the women at dusk...listen to them gossipping, telling old stories, etc, etc
- The varaal fish caught fresh from the small streams...had as curry with the kappa ammachi proudly nurtured
- a pleasure for now...feeling the coolness of the rudoxide flooring, imagining the layout of our old house and the farm and remembering all the things we did there

Well if you thought my ammachi was just a farmer's ready for this. Well my sweetheart is now an Internet Superstar...

At Arakulam
- Listening to the sound of the creek flowing by our thottam
- Hunting for kuzhiyaanas with mom
- Reading a year's balaramas and pumbattas which our cousins subscribed to, but denied to us back at home...coz pops believed comics and cartoons were no good...of course Misha was an honourable exception to the rule.
- Reading novels and short stories my dad and uncles studied in college
- Listen in rapt attention to ammachi's recounting of my dad's heroics, grandpa's villainy, great grandpa's enterprise and the mahakavi's fame
- Live in mortal dread of the rain, thunder, lightning and urulepottal which always seems to claim quite a few lives on every visit there
- A Silence which lets you hear, then see, then feel a Nature our kids might never know off again...

3. VenalMazha - Towards the end of April or beginning of May a totally unexpected rain showers on us trivandrum residents. With the sun in full blast, the dust in full flight, the sweatglands working-overtime as salt factories, comes a gift from the heavens on Ganapathi's wedding, more refreshing for the mind and body, if caught in this tender rain than any water-park of human devise.

4. Camps - A semi-mad, retired colonel in TVM cooked up this idea of a personality development summer sis and i found ourselves going reluctanly, but amongst a new set of boys and gals i saw all my latent talents in writing, elocution, quizzing and sports come gushing nine and seventh heaven just become pale adjectives to describe how a sad, spindly, introverted boy on earth feels when catapulted to overnight stardom...i ended up best camper in my second year there, but continued as a cropper when back after summer at my illustrious school amongst my accomplished classmates. But the camp was a harbinger for life to come, college saw me break out of the last of my self-inflicted barriers. jibs...when down and out, never ever lose hope in fresh beginnings, dude.

5. Beer - Summers at college was a bad bad time. College closes in March for study-leave, but we neither studied nor did anything worthwhile, sat twiddling our thumbs at home, the exams beginning in mid-April and sometimes even overlapping to June was a time for hectic exam-eve study, xeroxing and sleeping blissfully. Yet we would venture out, sometimes to the movies, otherwise sweating on the cricket ground and savoring the drink that most symbolizes college-life, beer. Yummm...i still can relish the taste of hundreds and hundreds of kingfishers guzzled in those 4 years.

6. Coolness,A 2007 Story - A summer of 1992, when i first set unbelieving blinking eyes on the big home my parents had built, i realized i had been denied a lot of cool stuff other kids my age grew up with like toys, comic books, bicycles, video games, etc, etc all which my young but receptive mind assumed we just were not in a position to afford. My parents had turned me on the path of knowledge...observing people, reading encyclopedias, novels, newspapers...even today i fail to relate with swanky cars, new-age gizmos, designer wear, big money, etc, etc. In this era it might be a huge failing and i may be an odd one out...a constant struggle to define myself and my coolness quotient goes on...watching my life play out, waiting for the surprises in store. A whole new theater of activity awaits me this summer...before the curtain downs on a season of warmth, an incubation period goes on, i expect to be hatched a new person when Fall befalls. Wonder what's in store...

Well here goes the list of folks yet to be tagged with this one...Arun Hari, Dhanush, Flaash, Pappanabhan, Rajesh, Sarah and Thanu...Enjoy!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Oru Thattupolappan Vivaaha Vyavahaarika...

I feel inspiration for a post hit and it was on a topic i had the least idea of...marriages!!! More odd...this divine blog actually began with a recounting of an american wedding i inspite of all further oddities i will strive on to finish this will be interesting for you the reader and me the blogger to find out where this goes! Apologies to my sis, her friends, my friends, our family, etc, etc whose interesting experiences is all that this post contains. A piece of ancestor, the Mahakavi wrote a musical-play, Sara Vivaham 104 years ago, to be screened on the occasion of my great-grandfather marrying my great-grandmother...wonder how favorable the odds are for him to throw a paathaalakarandi down from heaven, to scoop me off, for writing such chavare!

A girl reaches the marriageable age...a process akin to the software engineering life cycle begins..always begins by a requirements gathering. Lets see how a consensus was arrived at in my family.
Pops: The boy should be from a good family.
Mom: All i care for is a good boy!
Me: All i ask is he should have lived in Kerala at some point and...(secretly to my sis)i hope he drinks a bit too!
Pops: Why is that? 50% of malayali christians are expats!
Me(sheepishly): I'd like to talk to my future aliyan in pacha-malayalam!
Finally all eyes turn to the client for her concerns.
Sis: Haavoo!Thanks for asking me atleast now!

And so begins the next phase: the groom search. At no other point in life can you ever get to see such a vivid assortment of the male mallu psyche.
Boy1: Looking for a comely girl who can sing, dance, cook, yaada yaada yaada!
Boy2: Lookin for a homely gal with us citizenship/green card but brought up in kerala.
Boy3: Looking for lovely gal from financially sound family, who is preferably a single child.
Boy4: I need a beautiful girl!!!

One night. I get a call from Pops.
Pops: Go online to ChavaraMatrimonial and look up this boy.
Me: Pops I am applying for jobs rite now!
Pops: Well somebody just applied for a bharthaav udyogam!
So I login on my sister's account to check this guy out...the same usual stuff. I am tempted to browse out the gals on the site. A message pops up - "Same Gender Search not allowed"! Dang...i didnt know the church was so hell bent on checking homosexuality!

My net-savvy dad even taught a still-surviving broker a lesson or two.
Pops: Send me a snap of the boy.
Broker: Okay sir! I will post it.
Pops: Dont you have an email? It is so much faster, you know.
Broker(now desperate):Then i will bring snap over!
Pops: Vendae Venda! Ennaal vandikooliyum tharanamello pinne!

Then begins the emailing the end of this, you actually realize half the guys out there in the arranged-market are desperados, if not psychos...sympathies for the gals tagged to them for a lifetime!
Boy1(wud seem like a spammer in his spare time seeing his flurry of emails!): I have brought a 3 bedroom house for us.ur parents can live with us. me even ready to watch mallu movies with u!
Gal: Take it slow dude!
Boy1: Are you seeing someone (surprised that she didnt fall for all that?)
Gal: WTF!

Boy2: Take a look at some casual pictures of mine.
Each pic clicked on causing increasing panic. In one he shows his well-toned biceps. Another in front of a mirror. And finally the piece de resistance of the slide-show...he wears red-coloured goggles. Total Disaster!
Gal: Good Luck!

And so the party moves to the backroom. Time for background check. Sometimes done by direct house visits, sometimes by asking common friends, inquiring at colleges studied, etc, etc.

A friend of mine, is asked by his dad abt a boy who was our senior in college they had found for their child.
Gal-Dad: Do u know this guy?
Friend: No...never heard of him.
Gal-Dad(relieved): Thank God! If you havent heard of him, it means the boy must be real nice, studious and didnt alambufy in college!

Marital background checks can come handy for college on! One day The Savages, our gang in college was summoned to the ladies staff-room and the teachers ganged around, scolding us for all the alambs in class. Seeing us not bothered...
Teacher1: Ha Varatte! Ningalkke kalyaana samayam aakumbol pembillerude achanmaar chodhiche varum
Teacher2: Annu njangal kaanichu tharaam
Savage1: Njan love-marriageil vishwasikkunna aalaanu.
Teacher3: Ho thanne love cheyyaanum pembiller dhairyapedumo!

This happened at one such direct visit i had to attend to make up a quorum for marriage functions...i forget if it needs to be odd or an even number of people that needs to proceed.
Gal-Dad(a relative): How come the boy did his MD in such a useless field?
Boy-Dad(our family friend too, this man, now irritated): How come the gal got 80% for degree and only 54% for PG? Was she distracted by something?
Mom unable to stop laughing, me wondering if a fight would break out!

Another such visit of a Gal-Dad to a friend's workplace to interview him.
Gal-Dad: Do you smoke or drink?
Friend: Yeah!
Gal-Dad: Eh! But your parents said you dont.
Friend(to himself):Iyaal aaruva! Ithokke veetukaarode paranjitta ellaavarum cheyyaa?!

Nowadays a new tool rampantly used. Orkut! Every boy/gal's profile, scrapbook and friends-list is checked...many are rejected for being around in the site long but not having enough friends! So those on warned...either leave or get active, if inside!

And now comes the Pennukaanal Chadangu. So long as you are neither the boy/gal involved it is fun. Some of my blog-pals like Anish and Silverine have written awesome posts on this endeavour.

Here is one incident that went almost wrong. To satisfy the quorum said somewhere above i had to go for this ceremony once. My cousin-chetan, the boy, all clean-shaven, me with a beard, arrive at the gal's house...
Gal-Dad(outstretched hand, towards me): Welcome, nice to meet you, i am george
Cousin(lunging forward, taking the hand): Njaanaanu cherukkan
Gal-Dad(to cousin): You look younger to him!
Gal-Dad apologizes cousin made sure i never went with him to see gals after that!

Another one that went real wrong.
Boy: You said you were 5ft,4 and 52kgs in ur profile...look at u!
Gal: You said you were fair-complexioned, handsome and well-built...look at u!

This one had almost tragic repercussions. 30 years back. My uncle was to go for Pennu-Kaanal and his friend agreed to tag along for company. On the appointed day the friend arrives, decked in a new, finely stitched coat and suit while my uncle wore an old, almost worn out one. Uncle surveys the friend head-to-toe, realizes the danger of his bride-to-be casting her eyes on this upstart.
Uncle: Nee varaenda. Nee vannaal sheriyaavilla
Friend: But...But...this new suit...50 dollars...quorum...
Uncle: Quorums be damned. This is America!
The joke in later years was, this friend realizing how a man can change with the coming of a woman, swore at the altar of chronic bachelordom for 15 long years, until he finally yielded to nature's call!

Sometimes the Pennukaanal Chandange never happens...a friend's wife said she saw 28 guys before just talking over the fone with him just once...and she realized he was the right guy and decided to forego the Pennukaanal!

And so my good people, an odyssey of unparallelled psychological profiling besides other physical, mental, material, logical, familial analyses leads to an engagement and then the marriage which despite all the above said human exertions is supposedly ordained in heaven! A post i thoroughly enjoyed penning...well i think the incidents above can be generalized across the kerala spectrum. But the troubles malayalis have to go through even after a marriage is over...i leave you with one final anecdote.

Man: We were the best of friends 30 years back. Yet he didnt invite me for his daughter's wedding.
Pops: Maybe he forgot.
Man: I am not inviting him for my daughter's wedding.
After the man leaves...
Mom: What's wrong with him? I'd be glad if there was one less wedding I'd be invited to.
We could only laugh in agreement at her pungent observation.