Random musings of a wandering soul

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Mid flight Musings

IMG_8733.JPGThe eyes are Pavlovian. The mind might be lost in some wayward dream, the brain thinking of the next meeting and the hands trying to shove the cabin luggage into the narrow space above. The moment a book is in the vicinity, the eyes latch on, unabashedly. Usually, it is accompanied by a neck that contorts itself into some complex gymnast move, it was easy today, though. The gentleman in the next seat had t opened it yet, and there it lay bare, ‘Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy,’ Sheryl Sandberg.

Seat belt on, I delved into my bag and brought out my companion for this trip. And the man in the next seat started trying my circus moves. With a wide grin, I showed him the cover.

“Sethu,” he said. Ah, a fellow Malayali.

“What is the book about?” he continued.

“It’s the story of Muziris, the ancient port town that is supposed to have been somewhere near Kodungallur. There’s been these recent excavations in Pattanam that has brought out some interesting facts,” I replied.

“ I’ve read only one book of his, forgot the name, though.”


“Yes, that one.” Was there a tinge of sadness in his words?

“How’s your book, sir?” I had read some excerpts and had loved it.

“It’s good, and I need it for a session that I am going for. Our company is organizing a workshop for people like me who will be retiring soon. We need to learn to live alone, when it comes to that. Can’t expect the two of us to go together. I mooted this idea and the management agreed, luckily. Ten of us, away from the madness, in Karwar.”

“What do you do, sir?” that was a cliched question, I know.

“I am a scientist,” he was a little reluctant to say anything further.

“That Sethu book, I lost it,” I had not imagined that sadness, after all.

“Last year’s Chennai floods. We stay on the ground floor, water went up to the ceiling. Almost 2000 books, all of them gone. Except a few, maybe.”

For once, I was lost for words.

“Go on, read your book,” he said.

The Tamil professor Perumal was replying to the protagonist Aravindan’s question on the great flood of 1341 that may have destroyed Muziris without a trace.

‘എന്ന്നാലും പെട്ടെന്നിങ്ങനെ?’

‘പെട്ടെന്നൊന്നുമല്ല, നൂറ്റാണ്ടുകളുടെ സഹനത്തിനു ശേഷമേ പ്രകൃതി ഇത്തരം കടുംകൈകൾക്ക് മുതിരുകയുള്ളൂ. അന്ന് ഞാൻ പറഞ്ഞത് പോലെ കടലും കരയും തമ്മിലുള്ള നിലയ്ക്കാത്ത പോര്. കര കാക്കാൻ മനുഷ്യർ മറക്കുമ്പോൾ കടൽ അതിന്റെതായ വഴികൾ കണ്ടെത്തുന്നു.’

~ സേതു, ‘മറുപിറവി’

‘but why, all of a sudden?’

‘It’s never all of a sudden. Nature bears all, suffers for centuries before attempting such catastrophes. The eternal war between the sea and the land. When men forget to take care of his land, the sea finds its own ways.’

~ Sethu, ‘Marupiravi’

Yes, the sea, the nature, is finding its own ways, across the world. Will we ever pay heed to the desperate call, the lonely cry of our land?


Do you read my books?

Wanderlust at home


“Do you read my books?”

Possibly one of the most dreaded questions one could face from an author. I started following her almost ten years ago, maybe soon after she started blogging. Writing was her solace after she lost her father all of a sudden. Her posts were fun, insightful. She wrote about almost everything under the sun and interacting with her was a pleasure. Her first book came out a few years later, a compilation of her blog posts, which is being republished, she mentioned. The next one was about a girl with bipolar disorder, which I loved again. After that, there was a sense of change in tone, in her blog and the subsequent books, I felt. A few friends with similar taste in books echoed my thoughts. And slowly the interest in her writing waned.

She is now a celebrity author, a darling of the young. Most…

View original post 727 more words

My ‘Nurturing Mother’


It was called the gallery class, seats arranged like that in a theatre, one level above the other. The desk by the window was the most sought after. At the same height as the window sill, the seats offered an unparalleled view of the visitors to the college office. Not that we were expecting any exciting ones. Except during admission time, the only members of the male species that we were used to were the muscle man Joy chettan in Physics lab and the scrawny and  Kunjumon chettan, in the school bus. Even during admissions, it was the father figures, not even one good looking brother came our way.

The class was almost over, we were restless. And then, miracle of miracles, a young man walks down the stairs. Quite a handsome guy, at that. The buzz in the class was palpable. Who could that be? As he walked into the guest room down the corridor, we just couldn’t sit any longer. “Miss, can we go to the  library?” asked Asha and I together. Miss Agnes had a knowing smile on her face as she let us go. As we passed the guest room, both of us took a dive under the half door to catch another glimpse at the good looking chap. And we raised ourselves up right on to the laughing face of Sr.Margaret. “Taking a guess at who that is? He’s Sheena’s brother.” Even before we could erase our embarrassed smiles, the bell rang and out came Miss Agnes. “You should have asked me, that’s Sheena’s brother,” she said, followed by that hearty laughter of hers.

That was the spirit in which they raised us. What kind of nuns and teachers did you have, friends whom I made later in life used to ask. That too, in a long forgotten place like Alappuzha? Catholic nuns who laugh unabashedly and teachers who joke with you? “Not just that, they dance, they sing, they even stage plays as nursery kids for us,” I told them. They were no ordinary ones, those nuns and teachers of St. Joseph’s Girls School and Women’s College. Followers of St.Magadalene of Canossa, from Italy.

By the time we were in school and later college, the nuns from Europe were either in the cemetery of the Latin Church nearby or had gone back home. But stories, we had in plenty. Starting from my grandmother who used to ridicule our English, “learn from me, I was taught by the Europeans.” And my mother who used to tell us about the cherubic ‘Mother Unneesho’  and the sprightly Mother Josephine.

They were no ordinary nuns. The lamp of happiness was passed on from the Italian sisters to their Indian counterparts, the teachers, many of whom were students there earlier. If you asked me to describe them in a word, it would be ‘joy,’ undoubtedly. For us, college was fun. They knew just not us, but our whole family and its history too. That never deterred them from being the friends they were and still are. We could tell them just about anything. And vice versa.

The lovely Mrs. Valsa Mammen would hide her face in a mocking manner each time we met, “move away, you make me feel old.” “Her mother was my student,” she would tell the perplexed onlookers. The waif like Miss Ramani, who made Rima , the heroine of Green Mansions an immortal romantic icon for us, Miss Jacintha, our favourite Physics teacher who would scatter the six of us to six different seats and then laugh with us when she saw us all back together in the very next class, Miss Elizabeth in Chemistry who told me off at the end of a ‘very busy’ union year, ” koche, come to my class at least once a month, lest I forget your face,” the frail Miss Chandrika, our department head, the nightingale of our college, Miss Chitra, who was more like an elder sister, the millions of sine thetas and cos thetas from Miss Rita, the hearty laughter of Mrs. Andrews, the ever effervescent Mrs. Rosamma, Mrs. Mathews who was family, Miss Maniamma and a her long and luscious hair, the lovely Miss Saraswathy with her beautiful husky voice,  the painful memories of Miss Usha, Miss Leela who turned to be an aunt-in-law, the beautiful and vivacious young Miss Latha, the cherubic Miss Sandhya who fought the system and won what was her due, the elegant Miss Ragini who ‘blessed’ us, “may you have kids just like you,” the list never ends. I have long forgotten the Physics, Chemistry and Maths that Imlearned there, the profession that I got into had nothing to do with what I studied there.

My life is another matter altogether. What I learned there, in school and college, is the kindly light that leads me on even now. When I think of my alma mater, how can I forget my school teachers. Marie miss and then Zelma miss. When people listen to my almost non Mallu accented English (preening a little, bear with me;) ) and they wonder how, when I tell them I’d never been out of that little town until after my graduation, I have only two people to thank – my father who led me to the small library in the town and Zelma miss. When the new Mother Superior came to school and they were looking for someone who could give a welcome speech, she selected me. And I was awestruck. Me, who hadn’t got on to any stage till then? The confidence that she gave more than thirty years ago still holds me in good stead. Miss, I can never thank you enough.

There was nothing we couldn’t ask them, that they wouldn’t do for us. The love they had for us was unconditional and absolute. I can never forget an incident in my final year. Sr. Annette called me one evening, “koche, there I saw one boy who wants to meet you. I’ve told him to wait on the parlour.” I was dumbstruck, “sister, you?” With her quintessential mischievous smile, she said,”enthekilum paranju vittekku, paavam payyanaa.” The poor chap had no idea how I was laughing inside.

St.Joseph’s taught us never to take life too seriously, that there are plenty of fishes in the sea, that questions are meant to be asked whether we got an answer or not, that standing up for what is right is always right, that if nuns could dance, so could we, that we could always go back there and we would be welcomed back as only mothers could and that love was all that mattered, at the end of it all.

A thank you would be a mere cliche. But wanted to let you know, my deaest teachers, that you all are rembered, much fondly and with great love.


*nurturing mother – alma mater

p.s. wonder where Miss Sheena’s brother is 😉

update – apparently he was so scarred that he decided to be a life long bachelor 

p.p.s a confession to Miss Elizabeth and Miss Elamma – Chemistry always was and still is a nightmare 😛








Stay blessed, dude!


5.30 PM. The bell rings and the daughter rushes in like a strong gust of wind. “Where’s chettan?” I ask. “He’s coming. I’m going down to play,” the bag is thrown on one side, the uniform on the other, getting into another pair hastily, she’s gone before I could even say hello. A few moments pass, I can hear a pair of stealthy footsteps. Instead of straight to his room as usual, the steps go towards the book shelf in the living room. He tries to be as silent as he can,but a small clink of metal gives him away. “What’s it, Georgie?” I ask. “Nothing, amma ,” he says. But his eyes give him away, totally. I go inspecting and find a new one. “Why can’t you tell us, you idiot?” “What?” he asks, with that made up innocence in his eyes, again.

When did he turn so humble, I wonder. It’s as though he is hiding something. Finding crumpled certificates and long forgotten medals in his school bag is passé now. The best , or would I say, the worst was going for his PTI and realising that he was the captain of the sub junior school team. The boy never thought it worth even a mention.


Everything in life is relative. Time, especially so. An early Monday morning, 3.30 to be precise, the boy came out screaming, three weeks earlier than he was supposed to be. Always in a hurry, he had been creating a ruckus inside as well. The first movement was a kick on his father’s back. “Why did you poke me?” the husband asked one night. “Get used to it, that’s your genes,” I replied. Oh, the kind of shapes my tummy turned into. We would spend hours watching him wriggling inside. One part of the tummy would be stretched to such an extent that we could count the toes on his feet. One moment he would stretch long, turning his residence to resemble a baseball. Next moment, it would turn back into a perfect ball, with one point looking as though a long rod  was sticking out. And so it would go, on and on. To say that the boy was impatient would be an understatement.

Out he came, and off he went to sleep. Every two hours, he would let out a tiny wail.  It’s not for nothing that they say, when the baby is growing inside, you have to say your wish for them aloud. They will listen and obey. The first thing that I said aloud was, “when you are out, if you dare to irritate me with your loud wails, one tight slap I’ll give.” Yes, I am a horrible mother he knew, even before he was born. The poor boy must have been so petrified, he didn’t dare to raise his voice for years. The sister had to come and annoy him out of his peaceful reverie.



That saying is true, I have to vouch. For reasons different, though. What we love, we wish for our kids as well. I was prepared to go to any length to make him love books. The soon to be father echoed it. And I had time in plenty, those days. The doctor had arrested me to a bed, that too in an upside down position. And with my head down literally, I read out aloud to the impatient guy inside. Whether he quitened then or not, I do not remember. But, from the moment he could stretch out and grab anything with his hands, the little angel devoured books. For the amount of pages he has chewed on and gobbled down, his constitution seems to be quite strong. His first bout of real attempt at reading started with a set of 10 books. Blind reading it was. And repeated, every single morning, line after line. And one morning, miracle of all miracles, he read aloud it his first word. By recognition, not by rote. He was hooked.

Years later, we knew it was all worthwhile. As he went up and down between belief and disbelief, his voice shook and eyes brimmed with tears as he asked, “it won’t be true, right?” Life’slessons were being learned. He had just finished reading Lance Armstrong’s “It’s Not About The Bike: My Journey Back to Life” when the devastating news came out. His first real life lesson. That even Gods could have feet of clay.




Meanwhile, he had embarked on another journey. That of his father. A friend of mine had cautioned me not to make a bookworm out of him. We didn’t have to do anything about it, like the best things that happen in life. He selected cricket as his elective sport. Too many cooks made his broth perfect, he was turned down. Football came next. And still continues.

You think he is perfect? So did we, till the terrible tweens descended on us. The angel turned into a monster, almost overnight. As in everything else, it was upside down.  Boys are supposed to rebel against their fathers, or so I thought. Till he floated into his teens. The smooth flow of mother and son relationship transformed itself into rapids, white and black. There were storms, tornadoes, earthquakes, volcanoes and sometimes all  of it together in a small room in North Bangalore. Where did this monster come from, we wondered. Yes, I had read lots of books and countless number of articles on puberty, adolescence and what not. To no effect, I realize sadly. The Tao had not come into my life, yet. The father mediated, consoled and guided. It took almost two years to come to a middle ground. We still struggle to maintain that equilibrium, as his marks go haywire one term, and back to normal the next.

The realisation that he is a different being, came with a slap. Yes, I am very old fashioned that way, we get very physical at times. As I raised my hands in anger, never did the thought cross my mind that this could possibly be the last time. The boy defended with his arms and mine were almost crushed. And he started laughing as I was almost howling. “Amma, it doesn’t hurt anymore,” he quipped. And I laughed along with him, was there any other choice?

We grow along with him, as parents and as individuals. Moment after moment, year after year. Laughing inside as I scold him for reading hours after his bed time, hiding my Chemistry marks while shouting at him for his, for having no clue about what to do with his life while still searching for the meaning of it all. As we admonish him for lying  about trivial things like buying an extra chocolate, we are forced to question how authentic we ourselves are.


He fights with his sister, annoys her no end. When it comes to times when she is hurt, he’s the first one to console her though, and make her laugh. We know he’ll be there for her, whenever needed. And she knows it too, as she annoys him back. At times we wonder whether this boy has turned totally inhuman, detached as he behaves. And then he gives us these pleasant shocks.

Fifteen may not be a watershed year to celebrate. But for us, who have been blessed to be reminded time and again that life can change in a second, that people who you thought would be with you till eternity suddenly leave us, there are constant reminders to live by the moment. That life is much more than grades and mundane measures of success.

So dear dude, as you turn fifteen do not think we are going to let go of our constant reminders and occasional shouting matches to study well, improve your marks and get your life together.

Our real wish for you though is,

May you dream,

May your passionate dreams come true,

May you know content,

May you spread happiness and 

May your happiness be your living!”

Happy Fifteenth, Georgie!



Aromas of Life


What if we tracked our life through aromas and fragrances? What would the earliest memories be?

Let me go back, years and years ago. A girl in a white petticoat, watching two men building a fence, the same girl in a boat leaning her head out watching the water hyacinths swirl around under the engine, on another day, she squats and digs the damp ground with a stick poking out worms and deftly moves into an empty coconut shell.  Strange that most of my childhood memories are around summer holidays in the village. Very few , almost non existent of the town where I spent the first twenty years. Muse for another post.

What did I inhale those days? Fresh air was taken for granted. Mangoes, oh yes. The exotic varieties that were delicately cut and served in a plate, we never cared for much. It was the ‘chakiri manga’ that fell with every gentle breeze that passed by,  that filled our holidays. The ones with a sharp beak, deep green in colour and the base a pale yellow or a deep pink. Filled with fiber, we nipped the tip of the skin with a deft bite and sucked in the juice. And then chewed out the fiber, skin included. How did it smell, I wonder.

Yes, the smell of mangoes, the dried ones. Juiced and dried out on a mat in the sun. A layer added each day, fattened up over the two months, rolled up and stored away in earthern urns, the huge bharanis. The smell was tangy, of wind and water, of a grandmother’s love. Ah, that reminds me of another fragrance. Of the wizened old woman, it was unique. A strange mixture of her body and spirit, the faint smell of talcum powder in the mornings and the strong ones of kuzhambu by night. Of ginger and turmeric during the day. And the wisdom and naughtiness in her eyes. Yes, I can still get that fragrance, as I close my eyes and inhale. Those days and the memories it brings.

The mud. Fresh and dark, from the depths of the river. The earth after the first rain. Of rot, that gave life to others that came after. The jasmine flowers that poked their head out after the first thundershowers, the faint smell of honey from the chethippoo, of the viscous hibiscus shampoo, the healing fragrance of pani koorkka, the heady fragrance of roses that were tended with life, of bananas raw and ripe, freshly ground coconut oil, the dung in the cow shed, the itchy smell of dried hay, of hens and their poop, of chewed mango leaves, the spicy aroma of cinnamon bark drying in the sun, the sharp one of ground pepper, of mustard dancing in hot oil, of shallots and dry chilies, of curry leaves plucked straight from the plant, I could go on and on.

And the fragrance of my mother. Of Cuticura talcum powder after her evening bath. I would die to get a whiff of that now.

Does the ability to inhale these life giving fragrances disappear as we grow? For, there is nothing much that comes to mind after those days. Other than the dust and fumes. Of deodorants and perfumes. Of aromatic soaps and shampoos.

As I make dish after dish in my kitchen, is it my childhood that I am trying to catch? As I long for mountains and valleys, rivers and springs, mud roads and pines, what memories am I trying to create? Is it life that I am running after? Or the love of it ?

Zen and the Art of Pillion Riding


Dreams come true, always. The best part is, sometimes it happens even if you are not longing  for it. In the small town that I grew up in, it was only a brother’s bike that a girl could hop on. Or a husband’s. In either case, the girl sat demurely, with both legs on one side, wearing a salwar or saree. Not much fun. We got to see the adventurous ones only on movie screens. Was it Priya Raman or Amala that ignited a spark, I don’t remember. Anyway, the dream was short lived and life went on to other dreams.

Many years later, I asked a colleague of mine for a lift. There is a smile on my face as I remember his answer, ” I’m on a bike, are you sure?” “The boring auditor on my bike?” he might have wondered. The crazy and often unpredictable twists and turns of life gave a poetic answer to that question, for I landed a permanent position on his bike and in his heart. The rides were short lived as we moved on to dignified seats in a red Maruti 800.

Ten years and eight four wheelers later, there was a sigh, ” I want to buy a super bike.” The answer was a surprise, he says, “What’s stopping you?”

Riding together is like living together. It takes time, to find the rhythm. First came the cult one, the Yamaha MT – 01. The macho, muscled one. A killer in looks and power, his first love and mine too. For a sedentary pack of lazybones that I was, the speedster Suzuki GSXR was beyond reach. That was for the boy that lived on inside the man’s heart. To race , on road and on tracks. Life then moved on to adventure and touring. We had ‘Triumph’-ed. The Tiger Explorer XC

Geared up, the test ride if one could say so was to home base. Bangalore to Kochi and back, in the heat of summer. We don’t take things halfway, you see.

That was more than two years ago. A few brief rides in between, it was as if life and its routine hassles had taken over. Some incidents and certain people shake you out of your reverie, reminds you that you may not have all the time in the world, for all the things you wanted to do in life. And thus started the best phase, and it goes on.

It’s the rhythm. Each bike, every rider, has one. Takes time , effort and an open mind for the pillion rider to find it. Especially for one like me, who doesn’t even ride a bicycle. Most of us girls when young, have this romantic notion of a fast paced bike, you hugging the rider tight, a beatific smile on your faces, and your long and silky hair waving along in the wind. Reality check. Life is harsh. The first shock, “Can you move a little away?” “How dare he? Where is all the love? The romance?” I was livid. It took a few hours of ride in the scorching sun for realisation to dawn. The heavy leather that covers your entire body, add the protective stuff over almost every joint, the balaclava and the helmet and then an equally heavy body on your back? Even the hulk would balk.

The first lesson – space. As in life, we need our own. Not to separate, but to enjoy the brief moments of connect. Over time you realize, as in a good marriage, an overdose of proximity can be suffocating on a ride as well. The brief touch on your knee that asks without words, “are you alright?” It says a lot, much more than a thousand and one meaningless utterings of love. Khalil Gibran must have been a rider, I’m sure. What he said of marriage , is exactly what a rider would say,

” But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.”

The seasons. They change, from mile to mile.

The Sun. He is gentle in the mornings, warming your face and waking you up. As the day goes on, it gets harsh, burns you down, scorches your throat, sucks the life giving water out of you. Short breaks, splashes of water on your face and down your throat, you are ready again. To face whatever comes along. Together.

The rains. You can either get wet or dance in it. Wasn’t it Bob Marley who said something to that effect?  Another wise one. It was on the ride back from Goa. Two and half hours of it. Glorious rain, in all forms. First, a drizzle. Then the tantalising one, on and off, a gentle downpour now, disappearing after a few minutes, only to come back then. The harsh one, from an impossible angle, like pin pricks on your body. The mighty one next. Along with the wind, threatening to topple you. Flooded roads, the gale forcing your whole body to a side, it’s a dangerous one. You can sense the rider struggling to keep his balance, slowing down to keep his rhythm, taking care his fellow rider is safe. Life. When it shakes you up, follow the lead. Move with him, this is not the time to go solo. As you ride out, you know that was one of the best phases. Wet to the core, yet lit with joy. The dance of a life time.

The wind. The life saver, the life giver. Can be a killer too, when it gets too hot to handle. Changing from moment to moment, it can soothe you, cajole you back into life or burn and scorch you. Doesn’t give you much choice, the only choice, go with it. Ride it out, without complaints. Because, the best is yet to be.

The curves. Season, you ask? Oh girl, you just have no clue, I say. Have you taken that bypass from Salem to Coimbatore? The one that goes over the highway? The sharp curve on that? That was my first one. Next best thing to being an eagle, its like soaring in the high skies. Wings steady and strong, floating in the wind. Some think they are dangerous, it’s all how you take it, is all I can say. Perfect moments of togetherness, two as one, just space and rhythm. It’s in you, to turn it into a graceful dance. Or not. The most dangerous moments, they can be the best of all. Be in sync and make it. Go alone and break it.

Many a ride and more curves later, I realize riding pillion is like Tao. Let go. Go with the flow. Follow the wind. Just be.

And, enjoy the curves. Better still, live for them!

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.


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.



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

(ii) picture courtesy google images