Random musings of a wandering soul

Archive for the ‘kids’ Category

The Last Letter

Our family was never ‘photographic.’ Search high and low, far and wide, it is next to impossible to find pictures of us from childhood. Now that I think about it, we have seen more pictures of our mother as a kid than  those of the five of us put together. Did my parents have an aversion to studios, I wonder. Or maybe they just didn’t have the time, in between bringing up the brood.

There were letters galore, though. Staying in the small town of Alleppey, a grandmother in the nearby village of Kavalam and a set of grandparents in neighbouring village of Pulincunnu, the letters were mostly triangular. I do remember my father’s strong, slanted handwriting, those were official writings in blue black Chelpark ink, though. The blue inland letters were always feminine. The neat and tidy, tiny words from Kavalam and the large, rounded words, as perfect as her fluffy palappams, from Pulincunnu. Telephones were rare and letters were the only form of communication, unless someone visited. Yes, I was reared in pre historic times 🙂

We were forced into this habit as we grew up. As the eldest in both sides of the family, the onus of keeping this tripartite communication alive slowly fell on me. And it would be a lie if I told you I didn’t enjoy it. We were masters of space management, the two grandmothers and me. We would first take up all the space in the three ‘pages’ of the inland, then write on the margins , sometimes even in the space provided for the return address. Born story tellers, we were. My paternal grandmother would even add some sentences in English and would remind us from time to time with a twinkle in her eyes, “I was taught by European nuns, unlike the less fortunate you.”

Count of coconuts, accounts of activities in the yard, the state of mangoes that year, the feasts in the church, maids come and gone, family news of old retainers, births, weddings and deaths, visits from relatives – letters from the paternal side was more in the nature of a statement of account – what came in and what went out. The maternal ones were, well, more maternal in nature. Rounds of how each member of the family was faring, each of us kids asked for by name, news of cows giving birth along the women in the family who followed suit, chickens and ducklings hatched and snatched by eagles and crows, the letters were more about what grew and did not. As holidays neared, we would wait eagerly to know who would be coming when to take us home. For, home was never the house we stayed in ten months round the year. Home was always where the heart was – split between two villages.

When did we as siblings start writing to each other? The first ones would definitely have been from me, the first one to leave the pack to far away Ernakulam. Who did what in the hostel, which audit I was on, which clients provided the best food for free, there was nothing that the family did not know of. And in return, I continued to get news of what was happening back in the two villages, the parents had shifted back to Kavalam by then. The triangle turned into a square as another corner was added. One of the sisters got married off to the till then uncharetered territory of northern Kerala.

It was three years after her marriage that we lost one of us. There were hardly any pictures to remember her by, not that any of us needed it. Bonds of heart are far stronger than the most beautiful of pictures, we have realised since then, as we lost our mother a few years later. There are moments though, when we long for a touch, a word or two in their voices, something, anything, that was tangible. Not to remember them,   just to feel their presence, even if it was for a few ephemeral moments.

There are some books that are my favourites. They have a strange habit of disappearing at frequent and infrequent intervals. And they reappear months , sometimes years later, right in time when I need them. Only when I need them. It was a prayer book this time, an unusual one. The one that was my solace in my years of questioning God, those years of searching for the meaning of everything. Had it gone missing, or was it that I’d forgotten about it? I don’t remember. But it was definitely one of those days, when the yearning was too strong, the longing too difficult to get over, that it resurfaced. Surprising me. With a letter, the last one she’d written to me. Maybe the last one she’d written to anyone.

It’s 21 years today, since the then 21 year old wrote it.

What would we remember each other by, I wonder. Facebook posts, Instagram pictures, long forgotten Tweets? And I shudder.

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Ini Aanandame!

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She sent me a message one morning, “Peramma, please pray. I’m going for an audition.” “Did your parents allow?” was my first question. “Yes, they don’t think I’ll get through,” she laughed. The next action was in reflex, dialing my sister, “Di, you did allow her?” ” She’s always wanted to be in movies, she says. Let’s see. Will decide if she gets through.”

The uncertainty continued till the last round. The debutant director had spoken to the brother in law by then. What turned it around was the other kids and their parents. Educated, from similar families. And what clinched it finally was a name – Vineeth Sreenivasan. He is the brand Tata of Malayalam film industry – trusted, ethical. The sacking of the Chairman and the controversies came later, Vineeth is anyway a brand by himself now – for his groundedness, quality and turning the ones around him into their own brands. If he has put his faith in this new guy, he has to be good, the movie had to be good, was the thought. ” Vineeth alle producer? Onnum kaanaathe cheyyumo? Athum his first venture into production,” was the general concensus.

As the kids got together and the schedule started, it was as if I was seeing a brand new version of my sister and her husband. They are the most down to earth, graceful people you would ever meet. True spiritual beings and I don’t mean it in a religious manner. The spirit of their land has infused into their souls – gentle, true, one with the nature. Their home is a haven for tired souls and bodies. Never would I have imagined they would embrace their daughter’s wild dream so whole heartedly. There were other skeptics in the family, many of them asked ” did they really allow her?” Yes, there were moments of angst, even anger. At the end of it all, they stood by her, trusted her enough to travel alone with the group, visiting her now and then. And to ignore the words of some nay sayers.

The kids came to life for us as the shoot progressed, we met a few of them in Goa. Roshan (Gautam), who has been tirelessly following his dreams, dropping out of engineering and then a course in Physics, if I remember right. He had moved onto Mumbai, on the way to becoming a successful theater artist. Yes, he had acted in two movies by then, I’d watched both and for the life of me couldn’t remember this guy. Soochimon, you will not be forgotten anytime soon, that’s for sure. Visakh (the delightful Kuppi), the one who actually held the movie from beginning to end – a mechanical engineer who had quit his job in Chennai for the movie – was a theater artist as well. Arun (Varun) my favorite, of course after the niece. His sensitive nature reflects in his eyes, so vulnerable and he doesn’t even attempt to hide it. The boy wears his heart on his sleeves. Destiny, it was for him. He was auditioned three times, apparently. Anarkkali (Darshana) the silent beauty in the movie. Her eyes speak thousand words, in poetry. In her second year of graduation, she is very clear about where her future lies. Thomas (Akshath), the quintessential cute boy next door. Innocence coupled with unstoppable energy, again doing his graduation. Siddi (Dia), the live wire in the movie, as in life. And my niece, Annu (Devika aka Tattoo mol). First one in her generation from our side of the family,  naturally our special one. I knew she wanted to be on stage, but that movies was her dream was news to me. And the director, Ganesh. He has been honing this story and script for more than three years! Along with him a slew of other debutants as well, including the musician Sachin Warrier who has added that fresh bout of liveliness and soothing melodies to the movie.

That we would watch the premiere along with her was a given. That’s when the other side , or should I say the real nature of these kids came to light. As with every generation, the elders tend to feel and say, “this generation, they neither love nor respect their elders.” And as with every generation, the kids prove the naysayers wrong. The collective excitement and anxiety was palpable. They had seen the movie, but the audience was limited to them. How would everyone react, especially their parents? Annu was even more tense, how would her amma react to the ‘scenes?’ She refused to sit next to her mother. The mother was very clear, though. “It’s a movie, isn’t it? You were acting, right?” Wise woman, my sister is.

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All of them, without a single exception had decided to watch the first day first show with their parents. Rooting for each other, hooting and howling as each scene unfolded, it was an experience of lifetime for me. The camaraderie was unbelievable. They had become friends and supporters for life. The seeds do not fall far from the tree you realize. As we met parent after parent, it was not very hard to see where the kids had inherited their values and nature from. Hats off to the parents who dared to dream and believe, along with their children. They are as much, if not more a part of this success as their children are.

As the movie came to an end, all the faces wore huge grins of success and relief. They had arrived, as individuals and as a group. ‘Team Aanadam,’ the brand was made. And it is here to stay. Three weeks hence, the movie is a roaring success. And it has just been released in the rest of India and soon to be in other parts of the world as well. As the team continues their journey, inspiring kids in colleges across Kerala, the collective euphoria is palpable. What this team has done is far more than make a movie. They have set fire to the hopes and imaginations of thousands of kids like them. Our nine old daughter said it best, “Now I really know dreams do come true. You just have to believe. Annu chechi’s did.”

We now talk of these kids as part of our family. It is Lal Jose’s words that come to mind while wishing them well. The team was officially introduced during the 100th day celebrations of ‘Jacobinte Swargaraajyam’ The entire group struggled for words, they were greenhorns, literally. And Lal Jose wished them, “may this stage fright never leave you, even as you become established actors and super stars.” That’s what I would wish for them as well.

Success, happiness, more dreams come true! While at that, may you remain grounded, always connected to your family and friends!

p.s. for those of you who ask how the movie was, who watched it? I had eyes only for my niece 🙂

* Ini Aanandame -only happiness, henceforth 

Chasing Ducks

Books are such wondrous beings. On one page you are enjoying  your evening with a nomadic family on the Mongolian steppes, watching the matriarch firing away orders to the family, in style. Come the next page, you are suddenly transported back to your childhood.

“There were scenes of hysterics as the little children were tasked with rounding up the most mischievous goats. They sprinted after the animals, diving to catch whatever body part they could lay a hand on, whether it be the leg, ears, or even tail, but often ended up facedown in the dust. When one particularly large and courageous goat made a break for the open steppe beyond camp, one of the boys, probably no older than ten, swung onto a horseback and, with his chest pushed out like a little man’s, went galloping off with a shriek.”

Rewind to an era that sound pre historic to my kids who haven’t seen even a stalk of rice. When there were no supermarkets and you had to run behind a hen to have a chicken dish for lunch. And ducks.

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Watching chickens hatching was one of the favourite pastimes of summer holidays. And the ducklings. The mother ducks are an active lot. Not for them, the days of sitting idle on top of a group of dumb looking eggs. And they needed the daily frolic in water. A wet body on top of a growing baby inside a shell? That would have been a sure shot recipe for disaster. As the shell broke, the chickens looked cute, covered in tiny, soft feathers. The ducklings were weird.

My memory deserts me here. When did the surrogate mother retreat and the real one take over? What I do rememeber is the joyous jump of ducklings into water. Mother first and the kids after her.

Duck roast was a delicacy, reserved for special occasions. Especially my grandmother’s quite famous whole duck roast. Boiled potatoes, mashed and mixed with spices stuffed into the tummy that would now be emptied of all the gory stuff like intestines and gizzard. More about that in another post. The whole process deserves a story by itself.

While the hens would be left to wander around by themselves, ducks were always cooped up. Except in the evenings. We were never a part of the letting out. Rounding them up in the evening was the real adventure. Hens are an odedient lot, except for a stray one. They seem to know by instinct when the time came. Obediently they would walk into the hen house, one after another. A particularly rebellious one would perch itself on a tree branch and refuse to come down. No amount of coaxing, cajoling or even threats would make them budge. Some days, they would just be left to their own devices, out of sheer exhaustion on the part of the chasers.

The ducks.  ‘Taking to water like a duck,’ is not an empty idiom, you realize. The first few moments after the door of the pen was opened was of confusion. Then the excitement would begin. Freedom, they seemed to shout. Skuttling across on their webbed feet, their wings opened out, waddle had a different meaning. It was a cross between a run and flight. The last leg was the best. They took flight at the last moment, with a loud quack of sheer joy and abandon. For a few brief moments they would be flying like other birds, before the weight of their bodies made them land in water with a loud thud and splash.

Rounding them up a few hours later was another story altogether. Think of a kid having the time of her life with her friends in a park. And telling them time is up. Oh, the horror of it! First, it’s a gentle shoo, shoo. Then the shout, and ultimately a whack on their bottom with a bamboo pole. We had our tactics too. First we would place ourselves at strategic locations, then the chase would start. There never was a gentle moment, just the sheer adventure of it all.

Rebels were everywhere. A couple would escape our watchful eyes and escape. Off they would go, swimming madly across the canal. And follow we would. Helpers were all around, on the way. They would join the chase. Someone who had been taking a peaceful bath would suddenly be thrown out of their reverie by the cackling ducks racing through the water and equally boisterous kids chasing them over the shore. Who would win was always a moot point. Their fate was sealed the moment the tiny beaks forced their way out of their shells.

Looking back, I realize how everything was taken for granted. Life had its natural course whether it was for us kids or the ducks we chased. Questions were rare. That’s the way things were, life was. The tiny embryos took warmth from a stranger, found their way out of the shells, were fed and then would find their own feed, laid eggs that were taken away and would finally end up, spiced and cooked, on random dining tables. Not one of us questioned why they were killed. We just waited, longing for bits and pieces of those perfectly browned whole duck roast. Another story, for another day.

 

p.s.

(i) the quote is from ‘On the trail of Genghis Khan’ by Tim Cope

(ii) picture courtesy google images 

The Santa Magic

SantaDear Santa, how are you? Please send me a ring and three candy bars this year. Thank you.” The note is folded and kept near the window in all solemnity. Not for a moment does she doubt the existence of the benevolent grandpa in the red suit and cap.

The smirk on her brother’s face is evident as he chooses to ignore the warning signal in my eyes, “You think Santa will go to all houses across the world in one night?”  

My heart skips a beat and I pray, “Please, let her not be logical, for once.” I start ruing the loss of innocence as she replies, logical as always, “Yeah, I know.” A smile starts spreading across my face as she continues, “That’s why he sends these notes to the parents. If he is busy, they will get it for us.”

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Parentous  is a meeting place for all who are interested in sharing their thoughts, experiences and opinions on anything and everything related to kids, parents and family. Whether you are a parent or not doesn’t matter. Articles on varied topics are posted every day, contributed by selected writers. You can find my posts there twice a month :)

As if we are the Curies…

I am standing in the queue studiously analyzing son’s school report. After the summary for each subject, it is a long story on how intelligent or not he is, how his handwriting has scope for improvement, how he can be a little more outgoing in one class and temper it down in another.

More often than not, the only thing that stays in mind is the summary, unless there is something really bad, which thankfully hasn’t happened yet or something that he is extremely good at, which I get to hear only if I meet his football coach. As I see some ‘very good’, a few ‘good’ and an ‘excellent’ here and there, the temptation to peep into the sheets of paper in the hands of the next parent is is too hard to resist. My God! That kid doesn’t have a single good and only about one ‘very good’. She must be a prodigy! The next train of thought is totally predictable. What will come of our son, if he continues in this vein? Why can’t he be not just the best, but outstanding in whatever he does? The worry lines start furrowing my forehead and the heart beats sound more and more like Colonel Hathi’s march past.

continue reading here

Parentous  is a meeting place for all who are interested in sharing their thoughts, experiences and opinions on anything and everything related to kids, parents and family. Whether you are a parent or not doesn’t matter. Articles on varied topics are posted every day, contributed by selected writers. You can find my posts there twice a month 🙂

Why Have Them?

A discussion that has been beaten to death, but still springs back to life each time a woman has a baby, “Should she stay at home or go back to work?” My thought here is a little more basic than that. “Why do you have kids?”

Honestly, this is something I had not given much time to earlier. Maybe because having the first kid was something that came along with the package of getting married and having a family. Daughter, who came five years later, was more meditated and decided upon. Why the question now, you ask?

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Parentous  is a meeting place for all who are interested in sharing their thoughts, experiences and opinions on anything and everything related to kids, parents and family. Whether you are a parent or not doesn’t matter. Articles on varied topics are posted every day, contributed by selected writers. You can find my posts there twice a month 🙂

How to Make Them Read and What

“Your kids read?” I can almost see the skeptical wonder in some people’s eyes as they ask me. The next question comes almost automatically, “But how do you make them read? Mine is so addicted to TV and games.“ And I am reminded of what Anne Fadiman mentioned in her book, ‘Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader’

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Parentous  is a meeting place for all who are interested in sharing their thoughts, experiences and opinions on anything and everything related to kids, parents and family. Whether you are a parent or not doesn’t matter. Articles on varied topics are posted every day, contributed by selected writers. You can find my posts there twice a month, starting yesterday and yes, I am super excited 😀